Well that's one way to avoid uncomfortable questions. Earlier this week, Ivanka Trump scored seven new trademarks in China for her fashion brand — just as her father was engaged in negotiations with Beijing. This sparked concerns about a potential conflict of interest, and when reporters asked her about this situation during a Tuesday conference call, Ivanka Trump just hung up.
On Tuesday, Ivanka co-hosted a White House media call with Holli M. Richmond, the director of the White House Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. The call was tied to "White House Sports and Fitness Day," which is Wednesday. Assistant White House Press Secretary Ninio Fetalvo told reporters at the beginning of the call that Ivanka was scheduled to leave for a meeting partway, The New York Times reported, but that she would nonetheless take several questions first.
However, the first question Ivanka received was about the Chinese trademarks. Fetalvo intervened and said he would “refer those questions to the press office." Shortly afterward, another reporter posed a question about the president's fitness and diet routine, but after a brief pause, Fetalvo indicated that Ivanka had left for that meeting and was no longer on the call.
As The New York Times pointed out, Ivanka rarely takes questions from reporters in uncontrolled settings. So though the Chinese trademarks Ivanka recently obtained were unrelated to White House Sports and Fitness Day, reporters took the media call as an opportunity to broach the topic with her on the rare occasion that she gave them access.
Ivanka's work in the White House alongside her continued work on her own brand have been sparking ethical concerns ever since her father first assumed the presidency. China's decision to grant Ivanka her latest trademarks coincided with her father's efforts to save ZTE, a Chinese electronics maker. The U.S. Department of Commerce punished ZTE last month — by banning the company from purchasing tech components — after it conducted business with Iran and North Korea, thereby violating American sanctions.
According to a New York Times report, Trump administration critics are concerned that the president's attempt to save ZTE could appear to be a reward for a foreign government that granted his daughter the trademarks she sought. Ethics watchdogs Fred Wertheimer and Norman Eisen wrote that the timing of the ZTE negotiations could set a precedent for "foreign interests and governments to curry favor and buy influence with the president."
The question about Ivanka's Chinese trademarks was not the only one that went unanswered. According to CBS News, another reporter asked Richmond if the first lady would attend White House Sports and Fitness Day. She has not been seen in public since undergoing kidney surgery two weeks ago, and her absence has sparked numerous conspiracy theories, though her spokeswoman has indicated that her recovery is proceeding well. Richmond was unable to confirm whether or not the first lady would be in attendance, but did tell reporters that the president would deliver remarks at the event.
On the call, Ivanka had also received a question about whether her father had changed his fitness and diet routine following recommendations from his physician. Another reporter posed a similar question to Richmond after Ivanka left the call, but that question was also redirected to the press office.
Although Ivanka works as a senior adviser in her father's administration, Vanity Fair suggested that she still isn't necessarily accustomed to responding to the ethical concerns that have plagued her for months.