She was once the most influential member of the Trump family. Now Ivanka’s reputation is in tatters. Here’s where it all went wrong. Picture: Supplied
She was once the most influential member of the Trump family. Now Ivanka’s reputation is in tatters. Here’s where it all went wrong. Picture: Supplied

The stunning rise and humiliating fall of Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump was once the most well-liked member of her family.

The 2017 polls were relatively kind to her. She breezed through media interviews with a soft-spoken elegance that made up for her father's notoriously brutish demeanour.

Prior to entering the White House, Ivanka portrayed herself as proof that modern women could "have it all" - a great career, her own business and a wholesome loving family.

Hell, she even published a whole book on the subject.

But today, the "First Daughter" faces a fresh set of woes. The recent email scandal exposed by The Washington Post is just the latest in a series of controversies to tarnish her brand over this past year.

And experts say there's one constant in this downfall: President Donald Trump.

THE RISE AND FALL OF IVANKA TRUMP

In the lead-up to the 2016 federal election, Ivanka was one of Mr Trump's greatest assets.

She was his polished, well-spoken counterpart; softly-spoken yet articulate, a firm but mollifying force to balance out the boorish Republican candidate's headline-grabbing string of crude remarks and gestures.

At one point, she was so frequently in the spotlight that she was rumoured to be taking the role of "proxy wife" and "de facto First Lady".

Immediately after Mr Trump's inauguration, support for Ivanka was at a respectable high. A January 2017 Politico poll revealed that 49 per cent of voters had positive impressions of the President's eldest daughter, while 30 per cent had an unfavourable view.

She was listed at Number 19 onForbes ' 100 World's Most Powerful Women 2017 ranking. The First Lady, Melania, didn't even make the cut.

Ivanka was far more prolific than her two adult brothers, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr, and evidently more liked.

Speaking to news.com.au from California, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants Eric Schiffer described a certain wow factor she initially had with the American public - particularly among ambitious young women.

"I think she's very sophisticated in image, and she is well-spoken and has positioned herself in many different ways publicly that present quite a statesmanlike fashion," the branding and reputation management expert said.

She wholeheartedly supported her father's rise to the top job yet simultaneously presented herself as a champion of socially-progressive causes like feminism and LGBT rights.

But fast forward 18 months, and the polls tell a different story.

According to an Ipsos/Daily Beast poll from June this year, Ivanka is considerably less popular than former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton.

Ivanka's favourability was down to 43 per cent, while unfavourability had jumped 16 points to 46 per cent.

A CBS News poll found support was even worse among women - only 18 per cent of American women aged 18-35 viewed her favourably, compared to 46 per cent who viewed her in a negative light.

But what led to such a dramatic drop? How did the First Daughter lose the confidence of the young, progressive women who once looked to her as a symbol of success?

Ask Donald Trump.

Mr Schiffer said Ivanka was on a "nice upward trajectory" until Mr Trump assumed power in January. But ever since his inauguration? "It's been like eating rat poison," he said.

"Ivanka has had her brand stepped on its throat and put into a dumpster fire in terms of credibility with women in America, who were her target market."

A key part of her downfall has been her close connection to the president - not just as a daughter, but as a senior member of his administration.

"Brands get affected by association, positively or negatively, and this was a slow beat-down of the Ivanka Trump brand, largely through giant gaffes and of choices to align with a power that's alienated millions of independents," Mr Schiffer said.

"Donald Trump has become napalm for the Ivanka brand. Being aligned in that administration has all but machinegunned Ivanka's trust and emotional connection to women - that were her target market.

"On one hand she was viewed as an extension of the President who's a perceived threat to the survival of the world order, and on another she's a modern-day icon of success and feminine power."

HOW THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TARNISHED IVANKA'S BRAND

Over the past year, Ivanka has been involved in a string of controversies, mostly relating to her father's actions and her involvement in his administration.

In February this year, she refused to comment on the more than a dozen women who accused Mr Turmp of sexual misconduct, much of the anger of the public.

When NBC interviewer Peter Alexander asked her if she believed her father's accusers, she said it was a "pretty inappropriate question" and refused to answer, despite the fact that she had, by this point, positioned herself within the administration as a voice for women's issues.

In May, Ivanka was all-smiles on a much-publicised visit to Israel at the opening of her father's new embassy in Jerusalem.

At the same time, horrendous images were pouring out of Gaza - less than an hour's drive away - amid protests over that very same embassy.

The awkward juxtaposition of her grinning face and the horror unfolding nearby sparked a storm of criticism, with the New York Daily News running its famous front page with the words "DADDY'S LITTLE GHOUL".

Ivanka also went viral after posting a softly lit photo of herself cradling her baby boy - right when outrage was peaking over Mr Trump's policy to separate the children of undocumented migrants from their parents.

The tweet generated tens of thousands of comments, with many slamming her as "tone deaf" for the post.

Her business was also subject to accusations of hypocrisy.

In July this year, Mr Trump's trade war on Chinese-made goods came into effect - but Ivanka's fashion line was exempt.

Clothing and shoes were spared from the firing line, rendering Ivanka's fashion line immune to the sweeping transition.

It sparked a scathing response from the public. Evidently her new message of empowerment was: Yes, women can have it all … as long as they have a rich and powerful family name to back that up.

The brand was also controversial due to the fact that her clothing was produced in Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ethiopia - an awkward contrast with her "hire American" workforce initiatives.

Later that month, Ivanka shut down the namesake fashion brand, more than a year after she formally separated herself from the company to join the White House administration.

THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL'S BACK

Of all the scandals to hit the First Daughter, it's the latest one - Ivanka's email controversy - that may prove to be the biggest.

Earlier this week, a Washington Post investigation found that she had regularly used a private email account to conduct government business.

In her role as senior White House adviser, Ivanka reportedly sent hundreds of emails to Cabinet officials, White House aides and assistants using a personal email account on a private server shared by her husband, Jared Kushner.

Some of Mr Trump's inner circle found it alarming, The Washington Post reported, saying it bore similarities to Hillary Clinton's personal email use as secretary of state - a scandal which became a fiery topic during the 2016 Presidential Election campaign.

 

After all, Mr Trump dubbed his rival "Crooked Hillary" over the erasure of an archive of thousands of emails amid a congressional investigation. His supporters still shout "lock her up" at his public rallies.

"It's been a treasure chest of blunders," Mr Schiffer told news.com.au. "Hillary Clinton was the single focus of her father and the use of email was crucial in undermining and eviscerating her credibility, which in part led to his victory. So for Ivanka to participate in a similar act is the plague to his administration.

"It highlights this epic-scale mess and becomes lethal for any future political assertion she may make. Many are saying she may run for President one day, but she will be mocked and fleeced for devastating confidence if she tries to enter any serious political trail."

He concedes - like a number of other analysts - that the two controversies differ on some points; Mr Trump himself later pointed out that none of Ivanka's emails were classified, nor were they ever deleted.

But Ivanka's response to the report - which was to claim she was "not familiar with some details of the rules" - prompted a scornful response from analysts and the wider public.

"It is literally impossible to believe, after everything that transpired during the 2016 campaign regarding Clinton's use of a private email to conduct government business, that Ivanka Trump was simply unaware that what she was doing wasn't allowed," said CNN's Editor-At-Large Chris Cillizza. "It's just not possible."

Bloomberg's Timothy L O'Brien likewise described it as a "rather ironic turn of events", given her father's relentless pursuit of Ms Clinton, and suggested her excuse of "not knowing" was a little fishy.

"It's possible that Ivanka, like her father, assumes that rules are for other people and not the Trumps," he wrote.

"The only way she could have known it was wrong was if she had electively shut her brain off for the entire campaign," said Mr Schiffer. "This is not someone who is known for being inattentive to detail.

"This further damages credibility with those remaining that looked at her as credible - and with the left it's just more reinforcement of a view of the administration and those within it."

 

Experts say Donald Trump has had a massive impact on Ivanka’s brand. And not in a good way. Picture: AP
Experts say Donald Trump has had a massive impact on Ivanka’s brand. And not in a good way. Picture: AP

The incoming House Democrats are planning an official investigation into the email scandal. But Mr Schiffer doesn't think much will come of it.

"(The Democratic investigation) will just reinforce a credibility gap and perhaps a significant judgment or flaw, but I think that's already baked in," he said. "Conservatives will see it as a liberal beat-up on the family of their leader."

He said Ivanka's base and Mr Trump's most fierce supporters will likely dismiss it as a non-issue - but nonetheless deemed it a "devastating blow to her brand".

WHAT'S NEXT FOR IVANKA?

There have long been rumours Ivanka will one day make a bid for president.

In Michael Wolff's book, Fair and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, he claims Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner made an "earnest deal" that she would run for the top job before her husband.

"The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump," Wolff wrote.

Mr Schiffer agrees that Ivanka has Oval Office ambitions. "I think if she had a magic wand she would exercise a thirst for the presidency in under five seconds," he said.

"I think Republicans and Conservatives and patriotic Americans would eat it up, but the majority of the left, independents and the modern world outside America would look at it and curse the sky."

But he says whether or not she runs will depend - like her political career to date - on her father.

"If (Donald Trump) wins the 2020 election, she'll be planning a senatorial and even presidential run," he said.

However, if Mr Trump is defeated, the picture may be a little more grim.

"If he loses, she'll enter back into business in a decapitated fashion that will have serious and lacerating effects on her ability to get the kind of traction she had prior to his inauguration."

Ultimately, Mr Schiffer believes Ivanka's brand would be much shinier had Mr Trump lost the election.

"If he hadn't run, she would be much further ahead as a brand because she was on a nice trajectory. Or, if Trump had been a different kind of candidate, because the nexus to power as a brand is second to none.

"Politics and the choices people make can disembowel brands, or it can create an idyllic legacy. They wished for the latter.

"Instead, it became an intermittent inferno."



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