Ivanka Trump on the Hot Seat: Can Her Brand Survive Donald’s Outrageous Campaign?

Staying mum on controversial dad may be the businesswoman’s smartest tactic, experts tell TheWrap

Ivanka Trump has long stood apart from her father, the incendiary real estate mogul who is now leading the polls for in the Republican presidential nomination despite a slurry of controversial attacks on Mexican immigrants, rival candidates, women and reporters.

In response to her father’s very public campaign, the 33-year-old businesswoman has mostly withdrawn from the spotlight to protect her hard-won reputation and personal fortune, insiders tell TheWrap.

“Ivanka’s brand stands in contrast to Donald’s because she appears subdued, self-contained and under the radar — while Donald’s a loose cannon,” Linda Ong, CEO of branding consultant TruthCo., told TheWrap. “She projects an image of daughterly respect and support for her father without aligning with his theatrics and more outrageous statements.”

Since introducing her father at his campaign announcement on June 16, Ivanka has made no public comment about his campaign — even as it has spiraled into insult-laden public feuds with Latino groups, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and others.

Trump’s increasingly abrasive campaign now threatens to tarnish his daughter’s standing in Manhattan society circles as well as her reputation with clients and consumers who’ve come to identify with her on multiple seasons of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“Who would touch any Trump right now?” one top PR and marketing executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told TheWrap. “Even having Ivanka on a carpet with a client’s brand behind her, who wants that association?”

For Ivanka Trump, there’s a lot on the line. The Wharton graduate has built fashion, jewelry and digital lifestyle enterprises that generated $250 million in revenue in 2013. Her portfolio, in addition to her role as Executive Vice President of the Trump Hotel Collection, landed her on this year’s Fortune magazine 40 Under 40 list.

But how much are retail partners like Nordstrom and Macy’s, not to mention consumers, willing to forgive? Since announcing his candidacy with controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants, Donald has lost his gig hosting NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” as well as licensing deals with Macy’s, Serta mattresses and other firms.

And as the senior Trump’s poll numbers climb so does the outrageousness of his attacks on everyone from GOP rivals to “Fox News” host Kelly to Rosie O'Donnell. The limits of his eldest daughter’s silence are being tested.

“She is safer by not conflating politics and business and keeping her opinions to herself,” Ong said. “As long as she continues to stay true to [herself] and is seen but not heard, she’ll remain untarnished. If she starts to speak out in support of him, she could be compromised.”

Speaking up has its consequences. Ask Allison Williams, who in February came to the defense of her father, NBC News anchor Brian Williams, when he was embroiled in controversy over the veracity of his statements about war reporting. “He’s a really good man,” the “Girls” star said at the time. “He’s an honest man. He’s a truthful man. He has so much integrity.”

The actress’ remarks may have seemed endearing, Ong said, but they also translated as “sad and uncomfortable that her father had placed her in a very awkward position, even if it was her own choice.”

In contrast, the perceived air of embarrassment surrounding the Trumps could be helping Ivanka in some circles. “Who hasn’t been mortified by a parent at some point?” Ong said. “So we relate to how she must feel and understand her silence.”

But while Ivanka herself has remained mum, her father has actually spoken out on her behalf, invoking his eldest to address charges of misogyny following his exchange with Kelly.

“So my daughter Ivanka, who is a terrific person, she came to me and she said, ‘You care so much about women, and you care so much about the whole thing with women’s health issues,'” he said in a Hollywood Reporter cover story published Wednesday. “She said, ‘You are really misunderstood, and you have to get the word out.’ And in the last week, I’ve been putting the word out.”

Additional concern from Ivanka has been bubbling up from campaign staff, as well. In early August, New York magazine reported she was furious over her dad’s remarks about Mexican immigrants.

“She’s close to her father and is sensible enough to know a problematic situation,” the report said, alleging that she personally drafted two different statements walking back Donald’s immigrant remarks. Her father reportedly rejected both.

In addition to any difference of opinion about political issues, Trump father and daughter have divergent approaches to maintaining their personal brands.

Consider the afternoon of July 21. On that day, Ivanka rubbed shoulders with Nicole Kidman, Wendi Murdoch and Anna Wintour at a promotional event for a Chinese art exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her white jumpsuit was labelled “angelic” by fashion critics. Her polite wave to paparazzi camped outside was posted to celebrity sites.

Five hundred miles away that day, her father held his first campaign rally in South Carolina. His televised tirade led NPR to compile a list of the best insults from his speech — among his targets the state’s Senator Lindsay Graham (“idiot,” Trump called him), President Obama and Jeb Bush. Political magazine Mother Jones declared it “The Most Insane Campaign Speech Ever.”

As his campaign proceeds, and Trump’s unfiltered pronouncements on hot-button issues continue to pour out, Ivanka will have to navigate how to mitigate any fallout to her own name and reputation. As Ong notes, “There’s empathy there she may not reflect his fundamental points of view.”

Representatives for Ivanka Trump declined to comment on this story.

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