Ivanka Trump, who has been so effective for her father, has been largely absent from the campaign trail
She attended a series of events in Pennsylvania on Thursday
Moments before her father accepted his party’s nomination, Ivanka Trump appeared on the stage in Cleveland, defending him as “colorblind and gender neutral,” imploring would-be supporters to judge Donald Trump “by his results.”
In a campaign ad released in May, the 34-year-old Trump was the face of the campaign’s most overt appeal to women, saying that her father “understands the needs of a modern workforce” and is committed to changing “outdated labor laws” to support women and children.
And, confronted about her father’s past treatment of women, she was steadfast and defiant, even telling CBS This Morning that her father was “not a groper.”
Now with 26 days until Election Day, her father’s campaign has been rocked with allegations that he groped, touched or acted inappropriately toward women, Donald Trump’s chief character witness has been publicly silent.
She has not commented about the tapes of Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” in which Trump spoke in vulgar and crude terms about women, nor has she commented on her father’s own words against her which include condoning the radio host Howard Stern referring to her as a “piece of ass.
Ivanka Trump returned to the campaign trail Thursday for a series of small events, described as coffees, in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A recent Bloomberg poll showed that voters from that area favor Hillary Clinton by a wide 28-point margin.
In Trump’s first event in Malvern, Pennsylvania, she didn’t mount a full-throated defense of her father. Instead, as she took questions from Erin Elmore, a Trump supporter who appeared on “The Apprentice,” the allegations of groping went unnoticed.
Trump fielded a series of short, largely personal questions and praised her father as a “great dad” and as someone who has big visions for America.
“What I can uniquely talk to all of you about is my father as a personal mentor and a role model to me as a great dad growing up,” she said.
Until Thursday, her only recent public appearance had been at Sunday’s presidential debate after which she did not publicly weigh in on her father’s performance. Public statements have largely been relegated to social media; Ivanka Trump’s Instagram is full of her promoting her #WomenWhoWork campaign, the title of her forthcoming book. There is one photo of the Gateway Arch, the iconic structure synonymous with St. Louis. There are none of her father or with members of her family from the debate.
Since the Republican National Convention, her public involvement with the campaign has primarily been to push the paid family leave proposal that runs counter to GOP orthodoxy and which she convinced her father to add to his platform. She pitched that plan to conservative congressional leaders in late September.
Ivanka Trump mounted a defense of those policies in an interview with Cosmopolitan that appears to be her most recent public comments on behalf of the campaign. Met with questions about her father’s past statement that “pregnancy is an inconvenience,” Trump accused the interviewer of having “a lot of negativity” and ultimately cut that interview short.
Ivanka Trump’s long history of softening her father
From the early days of the campaign, Ivanka Trump has done effectively what few other campaign surrogates have: showing voters the best version of her father. She’s stepped, seemingly easily, into the role played by a campaign spouse, one that her stepmother Melania Trump has eschewed.
It was Ivanka, not Melania Trump, who who introduced Donald Trump when he announced his long-shot bid for the Republican nomination in June and it was Ivanka who has risen time and again to her father’s defense and is a key part of the Republican nominee’s inner circle.
During an April town hall event with CNN, Ivanka spoke at length about her father’s record of championing women in business, saying that Donald Trump “believes in inspiring women, empowering women.”
In July, she told the Sunday Times of London that her father is a feminist and a “big reason I am the woman I am today.”
Perhaps Ivanka’s most prominent role as her father’s most redeeming surrogate was during the Republican convention when she introduced her father to would-be supporters as a fighter who will fight for you.”
The speech was a departure from much of the harsh rhetoric that filled the preceding days of the convention. Gone were the chants of “lock her up” aimed at Trump’s rival. Instead, Ivanka Trump channeled her own growing celebrity and sought to bridge the divide with the female voters her father has struggled with during the entirety of his campaign.
“At our family’s company, there are more female than male executives,” Ivanka Trump said to applause. “Women are paid equally for the work that we do, and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported – not shut out.”
She is also the face of the Trump campaign’s most overt effort to woo women voters, speaking directly into the camera in a television ad titled “Motherhood.”
“The most important job any woman could have is being a mother – and it shouldn’t mean taking a paycut,” Trump said in the ad which includes pictures of Ivanka Trump with her children and video of Trump playing with his grandchildren.
It includes details of the affordable childcare policies Donald Trump rolled out with Ivanka by his side and was a blatant attempt to increase Trump’s standing with women.
Donald Trump has repeatedly commented on his daughter’s appearance
Donald Trump’s comments about the appearances and sexuality of women also extend to comments about his daughter.
In 2006, he suggested that if she weren’t his daughter, “perhaps I’d be dating her.” And a review of hours of audio from the Republican nominee’s appearances on the Howard Stern show spanning nearly two decades, found Trump commenting on Ivanka Trump’s body more than once, including an exchange about her breast size.
In an October 2006 interview, Stern asked Trump whether his daughter had ever gotten breast implants and Trump responded by saying that his daughter had “always been very voluptuous” and was an “amazing beauty.”
In an earlier interview, recorded in September 2004, Stern asked Donald Trump whether he could refer to Ivanka Trump as a “piece of ass.”
Donald Trump, responded affirmatively, saying that he could.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper why these comments were acceptable. Conway responded that Ivanka Trump and her father have a “beautiful relationship.”
“I don’t know if you’re trying to drive a wedge between those two, but good luck,” Conway told Cooper. “They’re very close and have a beautiful relationship.”
Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, did not respond to requests for comment and has not responded to her father’s claims or addressed the 2005 video.
The comments put Ivanka Trump in an increasingly difficult position. As a mother and an executive who has built her brand on empowering women, will she defend the comments her father has made about her and the behavior he has purportedly displayed toward other women?
She has, at least once.
After allegations that her father had groped a woman in a business meeting surfaced in May, Ivanka Trump told CBS This Morning that her father was “not a groper” and denied that he frequently commented on women’s bodies and appearances.
“That’s not who he is. I’ve known my father obviously my whole life and he has total respect for women,” she told CBS.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified the person interviewing Ivanka Trump in Malvern.