Now, however, few groups disapprove of Trump’s performance in office more than women do. According to the most recent CNN poll, 29 percent of women approve of the president's job performance. That isn’t solely because the president is facing nearly 20 allegations of sexual misconduct toward woman, but as the country looks to policy leaders to respond to the “me too” movement, Trump appears to be moving in the opposite direction.
Ivanka Trump is arguably the highest ranking woman in her father's administration who is focused on issues related to women. She has been the voice of efforts to narrow the income gap between men and women, and she has visited Capitol Hill to call for reforms to paid family leave policies for working parents.
Ivanka Trump was one of the few White House officials to publicly criticize Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore after women came forward accusing him of sexually assaulting them when they were teenagers.
And more recently, after Oprah Winfrey gave a stirring speech calling for the end of the abuse of women by powerful men, the first daughter took to Twitter to praise the talk show legend whom more women want to see beat the president in a 2020 election match.
But when the White House official was asked her thoughts about sexual assault allegations aimed at her father, she initially defaulted to her personal identity. She responded to NBC’s Peter Alexander's question like this: “I think it’s a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father when he’s affirmatively stated there’s no truth to it.”
This type of response is probably part of the reason the majority of Americans disapproved of Ivanka Trump, someone with no policymaking experience, joining her father in the White House.
Sexual assault in America is one of the top cultural issues of our time. And how one of the top staffers related to women’s issues views a scandal involving her boss that affects so many of his constituents is of public interest. Trump's pivot to her identity as a daughter on an issue with real policy implications was confusing, if not frustrating, for some Americans.
What was even more perplexing was that after calling the question inappropriate, she went on to answer it. And despite her past comments showing sympathy for the victims of sexual assault, Trump made it clear that she believes that the multiple women who are accusing her father of inappropriate behavior are lying.
“I believe my father, I know my father,” she said in the interview. “I think I have that right as a daughter, to believe my father.”
Many of us can understand the desire for a daughter to believe in her father’s innocence. But what are the implications of the president’s adviser imposing her “right” as a daughter on the women who are speaking out about the violation of their “right” not to be abused?
The interview revealed that any efforts at responding to concerns about sexual assault at the very highest levels of politics will not be driven by the president's daughter, despite her call for addressing this issue.
According to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll, the majority of Americans believe that sexual assault is a major national issue in need of more attention. Advocates working to prevent incidents of sexual assault want an advocate in the White House who is there to serve the public more than serve her father. For some of them, questions remain about whether Ivanka Trump can rise above her conflicting interests of serving America and supporting her father.