Ivanka Trump says she doesn't consider the media 'the enemy of the people,' disagrees with immigrant family separations
WASHINGTON - Ivanka Trump distanced herself from her father on two high-profile issues Thursday, saying that she did not agree with his characterization of the media as "the enemy of the people" and that she was "vehemently against" separating migrant children from their parents at the border - calling the latter a low point of her tenure in the White House.
Her comments at a public event underscored the difficult balance Trump has sought as she provides private counsel to a president and father with whom she does not always see eye to eye, while enduring criticism for not being more outspoken about their differences.
Toward the end of a forum hosted by the news site Axios that focused largely on workforce issues, an area of focus for Trump in her capacity as a White House adviser, she was asked whether she considered journalists in the room to be "the enemy of the people."
"No, I do not," Trump replied, prompting nervous laughter in the room.
Asked to elaborate, Trump offered what she said was "my own personal perspective."
"I've certainly received my fair share of reporting on me personally that I know not to be fully accurate, so I have some sensitivity around why people have concerns and gripes, especially when they sort of feel targeted, but no, I do not consider the media the enemy of the people."
President Donald Trump has used the term on multiple occasions, and his animus for the media was on display again this week as he promoted a video on Twitter showing his supporters chanting "CNN sucks" as a reporter from the network did a live shot from the site of a campaign rally hosted by the president in Tampa.
The video was tweeted by Trump's son Eric and then shared by the president with his 53 million followers.
The president tweeted a defense of his daughter later Thursday, arguing that his "enemy of the people" line did not apply to all of the news media but rather only "a large percentage" of it.
"They asked my daughter Ivanka whether or not the media is the enemy of the people," Trump said. "She correctly said no. It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!"
Trump's tweet came hours after a testy briefing with reporters at which White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined multiple invitations to say that she did not consider the media to be "the enemy of the people."
"I'm here to speak on behalf of the president," Sanders said, ticking off several grievances against reporters.
"The president is rightfully frustrated," Sanders said. "Ninety percent of the coverage on him is negative."
During Thursday's event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Ivanka Trump was also asked by Mike Allen of Axios to share the high point and low point of her time in the White House.
Allen suggested a possible low point for her: the separations of migrant children at the southern border that resulted from the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on immigration.
As a national controversy flared, Ivanka Trump reportedly asked her father to end the practice but remained publicly silent, prompting harsh criticism in some quarters - including from comedian Samantha Bee, who made national headlines by using a vulgarity to describe Trump's reticence.
After Allen said that the forced family separations were a low point for many, Trump said "that was a low point for me, as well."
"I feel very strongly about that," she said. "I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children."
She went on to say that "immigration is incredibly complex as a topic."
"I am a daughter of an immigrant. My mother grew up in Communist Czech Republic, but we are a country of laws," Trump said. "These are not easy issues. These are incredibly difficult issues. I experience them in a very emotional way."
Her comments Thursday prompted a cascade of criticism from adversaries of the president, who said Ivanka Trump should speak up more forcefully and more frequently.
"It's easy and convenient to denounce an abhorrent policy after it's ended," Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., said in a tweet. "Doing the right thing is speaking out when it matters. Where were you to stand up to @realDonaldTrump months ago, @IvankaTrump?"
A tweet from an account maintained by the organizers of the Women's March also took Ivanka Trump to task, saying that "no amount of regret about or 'strong feelings against' the separation and detention of families and communities will ever make up for what this administration has done."
"We have asked you before. We are asking you again now: Take action," the tweet said.
Others were quick to point out that presidential aides do not typically speak out publicly when they disagree with their boss.
"In any administration, a staffer cannot publicly disagree with the president, so the constant calls for this or that staffer to speak out against the president isn't based in reality," said Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee.
While Heye acknowledged that Ivanka Trump "isn't just any staffer," he said it's hard to image how her speaking out more regularly would lead to different postures from her father.
"That's up to the president. He's the decider," Heye said.
Ivanka Trump first broke her silence on the issue of family separations shortly after her father issued an executive order in June seeking to end the policy that his administration had put in place.
"Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border," she wrote. She called on Congress to find a "lasting solution" that is "consistent with our shared values."
Ivanka Trump said in a television interview in late June that she had advised her father before his issuance of the executive order.
"Of course, I have very strong opinions on that topic," Trump told host Maria Bartiromo during an appearance on the Fox Business Network.
During the same interview, Trump sought to explain why she had remained silent while Bee and others attacked her.
"I have chosen, and I made a conscientious decision a long time ago, that I was not going to get into the fray, and that means that I'll absorb the body blows that come my way," she said. "It is important to me to focus on the task at hand, which is serving the American people and using this moment in my life to advance an agenda that I deeply believe in and feel very fortunate to be able to work on."
During a segment of her "Full Frontal" show on TBS in May, Bee took aim at Trump for tweeting a photo of herself with her younger son around the same time as reports that the U.S. government had lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children last year.
"You know, Ivanka, that's a beautiful photo of you and your child," Bee said. "Let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad's immigration practices, you feckless c---. He listens to you."
Bee later apologized, saying her use of the vulgarity was "inappropriate and inexcusable" and that she had "crossed a line."
As for a high point of her White House tenure, Trump on Thursday cited the president's commutation of the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug conviction after her case was brought to his attention by reality television star Kim Kardashian.
Ivanka Trump said she was moved while watching news coverage of Johnson leaving prison and running into the arms of her waiting family members.
"I was crying," Trump said. "It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It reminds you of the real impact you have on people."
This article was written by John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, reporters for The Washington Post.