On Saturday, a photo of Ivanka Trump taking her father's seat at a G20 Summit meeting focusing on “Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health” sparked controversy on social media. Given the fact that the others at the table were world leaders — including Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, and Russian President Vladimir Putin — the first daughter's presence drew widespread rebuke, given her recent insistence that she tries to "stay out of politics."
Trump standing in for her father was unusual; according to The Washington Post, replacing heads of state at these meetings usually falls to government ministers or senior officials. Critics also argued that her participation was undeserved, considering she was not elected to represent the American public.
According to ABC News, a White House official responded to the talk surrounding the photo by stating that the first daughter's presence at the table was a momentary and standard move. "Ivanka was sitting in the back and then briefly joined the main table when the president had to step out and the president of the World Bank started talking as the topic involved areas such as African development, areas that will benefit from the facility just announced by the World Bank," said the official. The first daughter "didn't take the floor during her brief 'tenure,'" according to a source for BuzzFeed News.
That the initial picture capturing the moment was shared by Svetlana Lukash, the Deputy Chief of the Russian Presidential Experts' Directorate, also became the subject of much discussion. "Telling that pic of Ivanka at G-20 table was posted by Russian staff," CNN's Ana Navarro wrote on Twitter. "Russians knew would: 1. be deemed controversial; 2. get us going in US."
Trump has long presented herself as an advocate for women's advancement in the workplace, an issue she attended another panel for with her father earlier on Saturday.
The president announced that the U.S. would be pledging $50 million to a fund meant to aid women entrepreneurs based in developing countries; the first daughter developed said fund in collaboration with World Bank and told the press that she would continue to be a “very strong advocate” for it, though she would not be doing any fundraising directly.
President Trump praised Ivanka during the meeting for the fund, suggesting that the spotlight that comes with being his daughter is the biggest difficulty she faces. “If she weren't my daughter it would be so much easier for her,” he said. “Might be the only bad thing she has going, if you want to know the truth.”
Neither the president nor his daughter have commented directly on Saturday's controversy.