Like so many political brouhahas these days, it started with a simple photo circulated on social media.
Early Monday evening, Ivanka Trump posted a picture of herself seated at the Oval Office desk. To her right was her father, the president of the United States. To her left was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“A great discussion with two world leaders about the importance of women having a seat at the table!” Ivanka Trump tweeted, appending the simple caption with American and Canadian flag emoji.
The sentence was a nod to the roundtable discussion on women in the workforce the first daughter had participated in earlier that day as part of Trudeau's visit. But critics immediately zeroed in on the fact that Trump had taken a seat not just at any table, but one normally reserved for the president.
“Trump ! please respect the Oval Office ! Please !" one Instagram user begged.
“lord, how many 'bring your daughter to work' days is this administration going to have?” another Twitter user responded.
Amid the backlash, people clashed over whether it was appropriate for Trump, whose family's role in the White House has already raised eyebrows, to be photographed at the Oval Office desk. Many defended it as “a photo op, nothing else.” A few of her supporters tried to read into what the photo said about Trump's future.
“Ivanka I hope you run for office someday, you should b [sic] the first woman president!!" one Facebook user wrote.
The White House did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Tuesday morning.
The Oval Office has seen its fair share of desk-related kerfuffles, as well as plenty of accusations that its occupant at any given time is “disrespecting” the venerable office. In most instances, the outrage and those defending against the outrage cleave along party lines.
When President Barack Obama was photographed with his foot on the Oval Office desk, it sent “shockwaves around the world,” a breathless Washington Times headline declared then. One critic accused him of “desecrating” the office, a claim that Snopes dismantled after unearthing photos of former presidents George W. Bush and Gerald Ford similarly propping their feet on the desk.
Obama had also been accused of not “respecting” the office enough after he did away with a dress code that required people to wear a coat and tie in the Oval Office. Andrew Card, a former White House chief of staff to Bush, complained about the relaxed sartorial rules on a conservative radio talk show during the first month of Obama's presidency.
The Bushes, along with President Ronald Reagan, had “treated the Oval Office with tremendous respect,” which was reflected in how they expected people to dress, he said. “I’m disappointed to see the casual, laissez-faire, short sleeves, no shirt and tie, no jacket, kind of locker room experience that seems to be taking place in this White House and the Oval Office,” Card said disapprovingly of Obama.
However, Card failed to recognize that Reagan had certainly been photographed without a jacket during his tenure.
As far as precedent goes, Ivanka Trump has certainly not been the first non-president to have taken a seat at the Oval Office desk.
In 2013, 9-year-old Robby Novak — better known as “Kid President,” a precocious Internet personality who recorded videos from his cardboard version of the Oval Office — visited the White House to meet Obama, who gave him a tour of the real Oval Office.
“Cool!” was Robby's initial reaction.
“I think you should try to sit behind the desk, so you look a little more official,” Obama told him.
Robby, in a suit and tie, was recorded sitting in Obama's chair and at one point picked up one of the president's landlines.
“Is anybody on there?” Obama asked the boy, half-jokingly. “Let's make sure not to cause an international incident.”
And, of course, the young children of former presidents famously have been pictured playing beneath the Oval Office desk.
That said, things are more complicated with Ivanka Trump, 35, who is an adult business executive with an unusual amount of power and influence for a first daughter. Her photo ops since her father won the election have caused controversy before: During Donald Trump's transition period, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, were pictured in a private meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The subsequent outrage jammed phone lines for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from those calling for an ethics investigation.
For Ivanka Trump, who does not have a formal title and who told ABC's “20/20” that she does not plan to step in as first lady, the polarizing comments will probably continue as she posts more pictures from the White House.
“I’m stepping away from my business,” Ivanka Trump told ABC in January. “My father will be president, and hopefully, I can be there to support him and to support those causes I’ve cared about my whole professional career.”