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Groans and hisses in Berlin as Ivanka Trump defends her father as champion of women, families

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, left, spoke to Ivanka Trump, center, and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the W20 conference in Berlin on April 25.

Pushing back against jeers from a skeptical audience in Berlin after she called her father a "champion of families," Ivanka Trump told German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others on a high-powered panel discussion she participated in Tuesday that President Trump firmly believes that women can do any job as well as men.

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On her closely followed visit to Germany ostensibly to discuss women's issues, the 35-year-old first daughter handled the heckles from a well-dressed crowd with aplomb, giving a sure-handed answer.

"I've certainly heard the criticism from the media, and that's been perpetuated," Trump said when asked somewhat provocatively by the moderator, a top German journalist, to address the scattering of boos. "But I know from personal experience and I think the thousands of women who have worked for, and with, my father for decades when he was in the private sector are testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women — and their ability to do the job as well as any man."

Merkel, who invited Trump to Berlin and was sitting with her on the panel, looked for an instant like she was about to intervene, raising her microphone to speak when the moderator urged Trump to respond to the boos. But Trump's reply appeared to allay any notion the German leader may have entertained of the exchange becoming awkward, as she flashed a half-smile.

In the 2016 election, Donald Trump became embroiled in controversy over a 2005 video that emerged in which he boasted about grabbing women's genitals. When Ivanka Trump was asked about whether some of the coarse attitudes expressed by her father in the past might raise questions about whether he really wanted to empower women, she replied that her father had always given her the feeling she could do anything she wanted.

I've certainly heard the criticism from the media, and that's been perpetuated.


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"He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive," said Trump, who has stepped away from running her fashion brand to become an unpaid White House advisor. "I grew up in a house where there was no barrier to what I could accomplish beyond my own perseverance and my own tenacity." She added that the treatment at home from her father showed "no difference between me and my brothers. And I think as a business leader you saw that, and as a president you will absolutely see that."

Merkel met the president last month in Washington when she visited the White House and invited Ivanka Trump to Berlin to take part in the panel discussion at the W20 Summit running within the Group of 20 major global economies and central bank governors. "Inspiring women: Scaling Up Women's Entrepreneurship" also was attended by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and the Netherlands' Queen Maxima.

German media followed Trump's visit intensely with live TV news broadcasts and scores of live blogs. The coverage began when she stepped off a United Airlines flight from Newark, N.J., at Berlin's Tegel Airport and followed her to the conference, a visit to the U.S. embassy as well as to a training center and the Holocaust memorial in the heart of Berlin.

German analysts said the visit worked well for both Trump and Merkel, whom President Trump has been calling for advice at least once a week since her visit last month to Washington, even though he once disparaged her for "ruining Germany" by allowing in more than 1 million refugees from Syria and the Middle East since 2016. The U.S. president is hugely unpopular in Germany and across Europe, but his daughter's visit sends positive signals, analysts said.

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"It's extremely important for a lot of reasons," said Thomas Jaeger, a political scientist at Cologne University. "It's an offer and chance for Merkel to be an important point of contact for the White House. And it's an important attempt for Trump to possibly get some credibility in an area where he really has no credibility at all — issues such as women, family and education. And if Ivanka Trump manages to succeed in these areas in even small ways, these will be important images from Berlin for her own future ambitions."

UPDATES:

12:20 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting.

This article was originally published at 9:55 a.m.

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