Ivanka Trump would like you to know that all this apocalyptic earth stuff is not her fault. A week after President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord and drove the world’s scientists and citizens into a panic, his elder daughter has finally offered a response. But rather than release a statement about, say, the economic benefits of investing in clean energy or the affirmation that climate change exists in the first place, Ivanka’s omnipresent PR team has kicked into gear to save her image. Its strategy? First, an off-topic, pro-LGBTQ tweet on the day of the announcement. Then, an aggressively vague story on the cover of Us Weekly meant to absolve Ivanka, an official White House employee, of any blame for the climate change decision. The headline, which was almost certainly dictated by Ivanka’s team? “Why I Disagree With My Dad.”
The subhed below her smizing face drives the message home: “Balancing her personal ideals with love and loyalty to her father, the president’s daughter will always fight for what she believes in.” Not mentioned: what she believes in, beyond herself. A notably flimsy response for a supposed environmentalist, to say the least.
Us Weekly’s accompanying article relies heavily on anonymous quotes; even the most obscure Kardashian hanger-on knows that to establish a facade of distance, one must offer only a “close source” to a gossip rag. In lieu of actual policy points about climate change, Ivanka’s anonymous tipsters had a lot of encouraging things to say about the first daughter’s struggle to negotiate with her father. “She was disappointed by his decision, but she’s learned to take such defeats in stride,” the magazine described one source’s reaction. “Sometimes she and Jared are a big influence on Donald and sometimes he takes other opinions into account and does something they disagree with,” another offered. “They win some and they lose some.”
This blatant placement of pro-Ivanka media coverage isn’t new. Vanity Fair has run several items distancing Ivanka and her husband from unsavory developments. She and her team have been quoted in The New York Times repeatedly about her goal to impart incremental influence on her father’s agenda; they even went so far as to reveal that Ivanka cried when Trump initially refused to apologize for the Access Hollywood tape that caught him bragging about sexual assault. Despite the perception of anti-Semitism displayed by her father and his staff members during the campaign and the presidency, her media whisperers have even convinced CNN that she’s “America’s most powerful Jewish woman.”
But the vehicle chosen for Ivanka’s post–Paris accord clean-up is notable. Us Weekly is a powerhouse of a publication that, as of 2016, reached circulation numbers of nearly 2 million. Its average reader is an employed 40-year-old woman with a yearly income of $71,088. Due to its former high-profile editors — Bonnie Fuller, Janice Min — and its reputation for actually fact-checking its sources, the tabloid has traditionally been taken more seriously than its supermarket counterparts. That’s why it was the most effective place for Ivanka — a woman who has recently centered her brand around a faux-feminist manifesto called Women Who Work — to shore up her and her father’s white, female fan base.
It helped, probably, that Us Weekly was recently sold to American Media Inc., a media conglomerate that also owns the pro-Trump National Enquirer. Not only does the magazine cover read as an attempt to preserve Ivanka’s standing, but it can be viewed as a further blurring of the line between celebrity and political culture. It also confirms, as many media-watchers feared at the time of the sale, that Us Weekly is susceptible to its parent company’s political leanings. And given all the hypocrisy surrounding Ivanka’s support of women’s rights, her instinct to target women is especially maddening. During her women-centric speech at the Republican National Convention, she promised her father would “focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessible for all.” Just last week, her father’s administration drafted a new regulation that could eliminate birth control benefits for thousands of women. Running back to her female base to say “not all Trumps” — all while a foreboding cloud of policies that are hurtful to women forms above — is astoundingly cynical.
It does not make her any less complicit. After all, she and her husband have plenty to gain from their access to the White House, especially in their personal business pursuits. For those who have watched Trump trample over the liberal agenda, there is no more blatant a troll than a fluff piece gushing that “Ivanka is the best woman for the job” of persuading her father to do the right thing. It is infuriating precisely because there are people who will believe it. Before there was fake news, there was celebrity gossip. It was only a matter of time until Us Weekly began to blur that line too.