Criticizing the First Family: The Importance of Separating the Personal from the Political

From being a real estate developer and television personality to the president of the United States, Donald Trump can accredit much of his newfound attention to the media. The wall-to-wall coverage throughout the election, the real-time fact-checking and the countless editorials surely created a name for Donald Trump in the political world. Of course, not all of this attention was positive, as is usual for a presidential candidate. What is unusual is the ongoing political sparring between the media and President Trump long after the election. Although previous presidential elections have seen harsh criticism of the candidates, this time the media seems to be targeting Trump and his family more vehemently. Besides the media, the American people are becoming involved, voicing their opinions in protests, marches, twitter rants and scalding Facebook posts. However, perhaps it isn’t right to criticize the first family to such an extent.

Rivaled by few other politicians, Trump has very publicly held his affairs and contentions with the press. However, his family should not be blamed for his controversial actions. At times they have even made attempts to disassociate themselves from his alienating rhetoric. Trump’s daughter Ivanka has admitted that she does not consider herself “categorically Republican or Democrat.” Both she and her brother Eric “forgot” to register as Republicans for the New York Primary, so whether it was purposeful or not, neither were able to vote for their father. Although quite involved in the Trump administration, Ivanka has made a point to stand up for her own beliefs and even publicly condemned Trump for his “clearly inappropriate” comments about groping women in the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape. However, even though the first family may have their differences and disagreements, we cannot expect them to support Trump any less. They are family, and are not obliged to denounce him or criticize each of his wrong doings.

On the other hand, it is not possible for the first family to evade the scrutiny and criticism regularly given to those associated with the president. By supporting his candidacy, the Trump family signed up for a long and testing period of time in which their lives would be pored over and analyzed. They effectively opened themselves up to the public, for better or for worse. Although a cliché, it is true that with great power comes great responsibility. Of course, they weren’t exactly given a choice, but as soon as Trump went on the ballot, his family was just as much a part of the campaign as he was. While choosing his cabinet Trump literally appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner as his senior advisor. It is widely speculated that Ivanka is acting as a de facto policy advisor to her father, which was all but confirmed when she sat in on a meeting between Trump and the prime minister of Japan. It’s no secret that the Trump family is quite involved in the Trump administration, a highly plausible conflict of interest that has garnered much criticism from the public.

Although in some cases it seems justifiable for the media to criticize the Trump family, for many situations it’s hard to decide whether or not this criticism is appropriate. For example, as a result of the “Grab Your Wallet Campaign,” meant to incite political activism, Nordstrom, a department-store, has dropped the Ivanka Trump clothing line. One of the leaders of the campaign demanded that the retailer disassociate itself from Ivanka’s line because she had continued to support her father’s candidacy in the aftermath of the Access Hollywood tape’s release. Legally, it is in Nordstrom’s right to do this. Especially because of the current controversy in the Trump administration, it would perhaps be a wise decision to not carry out business with Ivanka’s line at the moment. After all, the company needs to account for the fact that some of their customers may boycott them as a retailer if they continue carrying the Trump line. However, it is a little unfair to hurt Ivanka financially just because she happens to be Trump’s daughter, and hasn’t estranged herself from her family like many have expected her to do. Also, dropping Ivanka’s line undermines the message of female empowerment that critics have promoted in response to Trump’s misogynistic statements about women.

Although criticizing the president’s family is not a new phenomenon, sensationalism from the media has contributed to the unprecedented nature of the election and presidency so far. Often journalists were reporting on Trump fairly, however things got controversial was when his family began being targeted. Because they have implicated themselves quite conspicuously in his administration, Trump’s kids are fair game for criticism by the media. However, when it comes to personal life, such insults as those against Barron, jokingly calling him autistic, aren’t acceptable. As long as the criticism is of a political nature, it is appropriate.

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