BRUSSELS — The French presidency is feeling a tad awkward after a video it posted of Ivanka Trump’s seemingly stilted interactions with foreign leaders went viral and spawned mockery, insisting that it “didn’t anticipate the reaction.”
The video caught Ivanka Trump in a discussion with world leaders during her father President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the G-20 summit. And it has fueled concern that the president’s daughter is having undue influence on U.S. foreign policy. In the clip, Ivanka Trump is shown trying to engage in a talk with a handful of foreign leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
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The full context of the conversation isn’t clear, but at one point, British Prime Minister Theresa May says: “As soon as you charge them with that economic aspect of it, a lot of people start listening who otherwise wouldn’t listen.”
“And the same with the defense side of it, in terms of the whole business that’s been, sort of, male-dominated,” Ivanka Trump then says, smiling.
Lagarde, who had been nodding while May spoke, appears mystified by Trump’s comment and purses her lips. The IMF chief’s reaction alone has spawned numerous mocking tweets about the encounter.
In a statement, an official with the Élysée — the French presidential palace — stressed that the French government often releases clips of such moments at summits.
This particular one, the official said, “took place in the leaders’ lounge right before the sessions on gender equality of which Ivanka was one of the keynote speakers, so it wasn’t anything more than a moment of exchange like there were 100 more [of] with other leaders.”
The official noted, however, that the clip was released at a time of “a larger narrative in the U.S. about Ivanka’s diplomatic role and that goes beyond us, of course,” but that it wasn’t the French government’s intention to feed into that narrative.
“We didn’t anticipate the reaction, and once again, we are not responsible for the use made of the clip,” the official said.
Even before Trump took office, his oldest daughter — who is officially one of his advisers in the White House — has at times played the role of diplomat, traveling with her father and meeting with foreign leaders. In 2017, she stunned foreign policy observers when she briefly took the U.S. president’s place at a meeting with other world leaders in Germany at the G-20 summit, a gathering of the world’s largest economies
But even for her, Ivanka Trump was unusually out front this past week during her father’s trip to this year’s G-20 summit and then the Korean peninsula.
She gave a video “readout” of the U.S. president’s discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And she popped up in group photos of meeting participants at the G-20.
Ivanka Trump also joined her father as he walked over into North Korean territory along the Demilitarized Zone to briefly meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. No sitting U.S. president had ever been inside North Korea before. Ivanka Trump described the experience as “surreal.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A White House official pointed out that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “invited Ivanka to speak at the G-20.”
“Ivanka is the White House’s leading representative on issues of women’s empowerment, which was a primary theme of this year’s summit in Osaka,” Japan, the official said.
Ivanka Trump’s omnipresence fueled speculation about her future political plans — her father has suggested in the past that he’d be willing to nominate her for top diplomatic posts. It also spawned intense criticism about whether she had the proper background for the role she was playing.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a progressive and one of the most outspoken new members of Congress, tweeted out the video of Ivanka Trump with Lagarde, Macron and others. “It may be shocking to some, but being someone’s daughter actually isn’t a career qualification,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.
Plenty of observers saw humor in Ivanka Trump’s many appearances.
On Twitter, using the hashtag #unwantedivanka, critics have been posting photoshopped pictures of historic — and fictional — events that now include Ivanka Trump. In one, she’s in the water alongside the characters Jack and Rose in the movie “Titanic.”
Nahal Toosi reported from Washington.