There might have been much more praise for Ivanka Trump, according to her dad, if she had a different surname. On Wednesday, People magazine reported that Donald Trump said if Ivanka's last name were "Smith," she would be considered "totally brilliant" by the media.
The president's comments came right after his daughter spoke at a cabinet meeting to discuss the launch of the National Council for the American Worker on Thursday. When Ivanka was done speaking, Trump showered her with praise, saying, "Wow. So if that were 'Ivanka Smith,' the press would say that was totally brilliant. As Ivanka Trump they'll say, 'Oh, she was OK.'"
According to a pool report, the attendees laughed at his quip. He threw in more praise for his daughter. "That was really great," he said, "unbelievable."
The president's comments at the cabinet meeting come after he spoke in Helsinki alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference. There, Trump sparked widespread backlash for siding with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian interference in the election. He walked back on his comments one day later, saying that he had "full faith" in those agencies and their findings on Russian meddling — then immediately contradicted himself. Both liberals and conservatives have been vocal about their criticism of Trump's Helsinki performance.
Wednesday's cabinet meeting wasn't the first time that Trump bemoaned the media's "unfair" treatment of his daughter. In 2017, he told Fox News, "I think my family has been treated unfairly. I think that Ivanka has been treated very unfairly, frankly."
Ivanka, too, has expressed unhappiness with the media coverage targeting her. In September, Ivanka told the Financial Times, "Some people have created unrealistic expectations of what they expect from me. That my presence in and of itself would carry so much weight with my father that he would abandon his core values and the agenda that the American people voted for when they elected him."
She added: "It’s not going to happen."
Similar criticism over how the press covers Ivanka has come from the White House, too. Last year, during an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Ivanka's popularity would have been higher if she didn't carry "Trump" as her last name.
Sanders said, "I — frankly, I think it's shameful the way that she's been treated. If she didn’t have the same last name, they would be celebrating her. They would be praising her." She added that people would be "thanking God that [Ivanka] is sitting in a position that she is to influence policy and help women across this country."
On social media, however, Trump's comments as reported by People magazine has so far attracted critics. People seem to reject the possibility that Ivanka would be more well-liked if she had a different surname; some expressed doubt that she'd even be in the White House in the first place. Amid the criticism, one Twitter user simply asked, "What has [Ivanka] done to qualify as brilliant?"