"I'm not a surrogate, I'm a daughter"+ READ ARTICLE
Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, sat down with TIME’s Nancy Gibbs for an interview Wednesday at Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women summit in Dana Point, Calif.
Read the full transcript of their conversation below.
GIBBS: You called your father’s comments on the Access Hollywood tape “clearly offensive and inappropriate” and said that you were glad that he had acknowledged that and apologized, but I’m sure you understand that many people were not just offended by the language they were offended by the actions that he was describing. Were you?
TRUMP: Way to warm up. Thank you Nancy! It’s lovely to be here in California. I think my remarks were clear on this front. I did find it to be offensive, he acknowledged it was as well. This tape was over a decade old, I’m sure he didn’t remember this conversation but was very embarrassed by it. And he expressed that, not only to me personally, but to the American people. I appreciate that he did that. I think it was very important for him to have done so.
GIBBS: What did he say to you father to daughter about that?
TRUMP: Well he recognizes that it was crude language. He was embarrassed that he had said those things and he apologized. That’s not language consistent with any conversation that I’ve ever had with him certainly or any conversation that I’ve overheard so it was a bit jarring for me to hear. He was very sincere in his apology.
TRUMP: I have the good fortune of knowing my father so well, not only as a parent and he’s been an amazing parent to me. I’m now the mother of three children, from five to three to six months. I don’t take for granted in any way how hard it is to be a good parent and he was a loving and supportive and tough, at times, parent who challenged me and my siblings to achieve our potential and helped us find purpose in our lives, which is what any parent can do. I’ve also known him in the capacity as a leader and as an executive at the Trump organization, where I’ve also worked in addition to my own brand for over a decade. I’ve seen him inspire tens of thousands of people. He sets a bold vision, an aggressive vision and he helps people realize that goal.
TRUMP: There are some people who are managers of people and there are some people who are leaders of people and he is very much a leader of people and I’ve seen it my whole life in a business capacity. I know him so well personally and professionally. When things have happened through the course of this campaign that are uncomfortable for us as a family, often times things have been said that are mischaracterizations or interpretations that are false and not consistent with his intent, a statement he’ll make, we talk about it. So we have a very open dialogue and I think that’s one of the things that I respect so much about him, the willingness to listen. Look, he’s very much his own man, just like I am very much my own woman. I have opinions, my opinions are my own, I express them to him when I am excited, when I am disappointed and everywhere in between. I am certainly not sheepish about sharing those opinions, but I do so in private.
GIBBS: We’ve talked a little about your role in this campaign. You’ve spent a lot of time building a very successful retail brand who’s sort of core theme was about female empowerment and yet that identity for the moment has been overtaken by your role as one of the most visible members of the inner circle of the Republican nominee who just in the last two weeks has body-shamed a Miss Universe contestant and appeared in that tape and suggested that other women who have accused him were too unattractive to have assaulted. Does that put you in an impossible position?
TRUMP: Well first of all, I’ve built an amazing community of incredible women over the course of many years. This was, my Women Who Work initiative and my brand, was launched far before the presidential cycle commenced and will continue long afterwards and I’m incredibly proud of the work that I’m doing there and I’ve always tried to maintain complete separation between that and the campaign. With that said, you know one of the challenging things is just operating, living one’s life with the intensity and the scrutiny of this process, is a very hard thing actually to do.
GIBBS: You don’t like the word surrogate? You don’t like being called a surrogate, what’s that about?
TRUMP: I hate the word surrogate, because what does that mean? When people talk about I’m his confidant — at one point they were actually saying, major newspapers were writing that I was a vice presidential candidate, I’m saying, “No, I’m a daughter.”
TRUMP: I don’t express my views on policy, with one exception as it relates to child care and advocating for women, because I never thought I’d have this platform but it was incredibly important for me to participate in that conversation and very core to my personal and professional mission over the last decade, so I stepped into the fray on that front. But no, I’m not a surrogate, I’m a daughter. I stood in front of the RNC and shared that I’m an independent which is very consistent with many other millennials and many other people. I’m not dogmatically aligned with any party and I share my thoughts with my father very candidly. I do dismiss this idea of a surrogate because I don’t think it appreciates the role that I’m playing as my father’s daughter and I love him very much and I’m very very proud of what he’s accomplished and he’s been a great dad to me. But I’m not the campaign mastermind as people love to portray and speculate and I’ve been very honest on that front.
GIBBS: That moment at the convention when you talked about not being a Republican and you’re standing at the convention, how much…
TRUMP: I was very nervous very nervous about that actually because I said what kind of response will I get to this? Standing in front of an arena, packed with Republicans and expressing myself candidly as an independent who really votes based on the candidate as opposed to dogmatically based on party affiliation. And the reception was incredibly warm to the ideas that I put forward, to my perspective on the campaign process. I think a lot of people are like me, are socially more liberal and fiscally rather conservative and find themselves somewhere in the middle. I think that resonates with a tremendous number of people and I was really impressed and as part of this look, we’re not politicians. I wasn’t groomed to be any one thing and my father never expected me to sort of fall in line. When I talk about him, I talk about him to groups like this, and when people ask me about politics, I talk about what a great dad he was. I talk about what a great businessman he’s been, because that’s what I know. You, everyone else can debate policy. That’s what I know. And I know he would be a great leader for this country, and that’s why I’m not afraid to articulate that.
GIBBS: There is, at the moment, a gender gap that’s opened up that’s bigger than any time since the 1980s. Why do you think that is?
TRUMP: Are you talking about wage inequality?
GIBBS: Gender gap in which candidates men and women are supporting in this race.
TRUMP: Oh, a gender gap in terms of the actual race. Look, I think we’ll have to see. I think we’ll have to see what actually happens when people go to vote, and I do think that there’ll be a lot of support that isn’t currently being recorded in the polls that are being conducted. On a daily basis, I have people pulling me aside and telling me how them and every one of their friends are voting for my father, but they live in very Democratic communities, and they don’t feel comfortable articulating that to their friends and neighbors. So I don’t know, let’s see what happens. But you know I do think there—we’ll see if that ends up panning out with the actual results. And one way or another, we’ll know soon enough come November 8.
GIBBS: You—we were talking about the brand that you have built, and a lot of it has been about how women live their daily lives and what need in their daily lives. I think yesterday the Huffington Post did a poll asking your customers whether your role this year has made them more or less likely to buy your products. The Trump brand has become so embedded in this political conversation. How do you see the future of that brand regardless of what happens?
TRUMP: Considering the disclaimer that the Huffington Post puts on the bottom of every piece of content relating to my father, I would hardly consider them a neutral voice on this particular topic. But look, I’m very proud of the business that I’ve built. I’m incredibly proud to play a small role in debunking this caricature of what a working woman looks like, in creating content that’s actionable, that’s tip-oriented for this young working woman that encourages her to architect a life that she wants to live. I’ve been doing it for years; I’ll continue to do it. And sure, there will be critics. That’s fine. I mean, look, now, I go to school. I take my kids for drop off, and there are photographers standing outside. They take pictures of me leaving my home to drop my kids off at school, and then I have to see in the papers that I’m being wheeled out to appeal to working mothers. And I’m saying, what kind of cynical interpretation is that of dropping your kids off at school?
TRUMP: Or I’ll have other people who are critics who don’t like the fact that I’ve been engaged in a long-term campaign to support young, professional women. And I’m very proud of the community that I’ve built. It’s totally apolitical. We don’t talk about politics. I don’t cover the election on my site. I’ve made a very conscious decision to stay away from that because, you know, that’s really—it would bring certainly noise and attention, but that’s not the long-term goal. It’s not supposed to be a political forum, and I’m very, very proud of the business I’ve built. We’re doing hundreds of millions of dollars in retail sales. I have a large digital footprint that’s supporting and sharing the stories of these amazing women, and yes, some people will say it’s in service of the campaign, but that is not consistent with the fact that it existed long before the campaign commenced. So, you know, I have to just shrug things off. It’s a very difficult environment in which to operate because, you know, critics have loud voices and make them heard. Also in my role at the Trump Organization, we’ve built an amazing business. We employ a lot of people who are deeply passionate about showing up at work every day. We’re one of the fastest growing luxury hotel companies in the world. We’re opening a massive $200 million building on Pennsylvania Avenue in a couple of weeks. It had a soft opening just recently, and when you read the papers, it’s like my father’s done nothing. I’m very proud of the business he’s built. I’m very proud of how it’s grown. He’s accomplished many great things, and you’ll read a story and it’s one person who worked for him 20 years ago saying he wasn’t a very good boss. Well what about the thousands of people who are deeply passionate about showing up every day? So it is, look—I may have been naïve going into this. Nothing in life prepares you for a parent running for the president of the United States of America. Nothing. There’s no training. And I would say that’s true of probably any—even a political family, nothing prepares you. But at least then you’ve like been to the rodeo and maybe participated in a campaign or two. Nothing prepares you for this. But it is very hard to live your life and continue to sort of build and grow your business because there is a sort of cynical overlay. I will say, you mentioned it before, but you know, I made a very purposeful determination at the beginning of this campaign not to talk policy because I’m not the candidate. I’m not an adviser. I’m a daughter. So my opinion is a distraction, and it’s truthfully, I don’t believe, all that relevant. My father’s opinion is what the American people care about because they’re the ones he’s voting for. But I did tell you I made an exception as it pertained to the childcare and eldercare policy he put forth, and I’m really proud of that.
GIBBS: Which represents such a significant departure from Republican orthodoxy up until now.
TRUMP: It does, it does.
GIBBS: How much pushback did you get when you were trying to build support for that?
TRUMP: I thought I would get tremendous, but I went down to D.C. because I knew that there would be some pushback, and I met with some of the top Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and the support was incredible. And I’m very, very proud, so you know, regardless of what happens—and obviously I’m very optimistic my father will win in November and then I know that he’ll be able to move the needle forward on this front. But regardless of what happens, I feel that this campaign and the small role that I played in it will move the needle on some really important issues. Look, you know, some of the statistics that blow my mind is now that childcare is the single largest family expense in more than half of American households, even exceeding the cost of housing. That’s insane. It’s unsustainable. The tax code was also written at a time, 65 years ago, when dual-income families were not the norm. This needs to reflect the composition of a modern workforce—[CROSSTALK]TRUMP: … So you combine that with the fact that now motherhood is the greatest predictor of gender inequality—or the greatest predictor of wage inequality, even surpassing gender. So, you know, there’s a structural problem. And families—it’s not a women’s issue, per se, although women are being disproportionately affected by it, and you see it in terms of wage disparity. It’s a family issue, and we really need to support families. We need to be innovative about childcare and put forth solutions that will bring down the cost, and we need to treat it like a cost of doing business, because it is. I can’t go into the office if my children aren’t looked after, especially when they’re younger and not yet in the school system. And I think his plan for doing that is incredible. And for elder care, which is very important. And disproportionately, women are taking care of elderly dependents. So, I think these are really important issues and, truthfully, I’m very excited that they were so well received with so many Republican lawmakers. So I’m hopeful that this really pushes the needle in a major direction.GIBBS: Given how important this race is and how high the stakes are, it’s been striking to a lot of people how much of the conversation the last week has been your father’s accusation that it’s rigged. Do you believe that this election is rigged?TRUMP: I will tell you that the media has been vicious and, look, there’s a lot of business people in the room. We’ve all had articles written about us by the business press that we say, “Hmm, you know, that wasn’t exactly fair,” or you know the fact-check—there’s a few things off. But you know, this has been, this has been a different level. And look, we take it personally. Obviously, there are some things said that are deeply personal, but just on a less emotional example, this week or in the last couple of days, I saw on the front cover of the New York Times a story talking about how the Trump brand was being decimated due to the campaign. Our team had provided statistics as it relates to our hotel company, for example, showing traffic patterns and actual analytics and data. They insisted on using quotes from random people. I have no idea where they called. They chose to use a booking engine that represented a total last year of 16 bookings. But they didn’t say that. They said the decrease in bookings, this booking engine, which doesn’t typically book at luxury hotels—and across we have, we have so many hotels. We have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of room nights a year. And they took a company that booked 16 room nights with us and didn’t say that, but instead said our bookings went down 38% last year and we told them, we said but this isn’t a relevant metric. They only did 16 room nights. They’re not, it’s not Expedia. This is not a relevant metric by which to judge our performance. We gave them the facts. All they had from us wasn’t the quote where we actually shared the facts of our performance. They had the quote that we think this is a mischaracterization of how our business is doing, and they didn’t mention the lack of volume that this provides. So it’s very, you know, it is demoralizing when you’re working very hard, and you have teams who are working tremendously hard, to read these type of things. So I think that the bias is very, very real. And I don’t think I would have said this to you even a year ago. I don’t. But I’ve just—I’ve seen it too many times. It’s tremendous.GIBBS: Obviously the Trump brand all along has been very much about winning, and I understand that you hope and expect your father to win. Do you think it’s important for the country and for democracy for him to concede if he loses, and will he?TRUMP: Well, look, my father is in this to win it, and I’m not interested in talking about alternative outcomes, and of course I think my father will always do the right thing. That’s the type of person he is. But when you asked me before, do I think it’s rigged? I think from a media perspective, it’s very hard to get an accurate portrayal of who he is as a person or the business he’s built, his professional accomplishments. It’s borderline impossible. In large parts, we’ve stopped even trying with a lot of the mainstream publications. Because they just don’t—I was going crazy around a year ago calling these reporters, trying to get them to at least hear our perspective, and it’s just a waste of time. You fall down such a rabbit hole with this, and it doesn’t yield a result. But to your point, he’ll either win or he won’t win, and I believe he’ll accept the outcome either way.