The morning after Donald Trump became only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, his senior adviser Ivanka Trump — who also doubles as his eldest daughter — sat down for a rare interview with CBS “Face The Nation” host Margaret Brennan.
“Face the Nation” has been on air since 1954 and is considered to be one of the most prestigious and high-profile interview shows on American television. Yet Brennan’s interview with Ivanka — which was released in full on Sunday morning, and pegged to the new policy of paid parental leave for federal government workers — could be considered a low point in the show’s storied 65-year history.
Don’t believe me? Here are three of the first four questions that Brennan asked Ivanka about her father’s historic impeachment:
- “Has he made peace with it?”
- “What is your dad’s mood right now?”
- “Do you think he’s getting good counsel from Rudy Giuliani?”
Are you kidding me? Is this what CBS and Brennan consider to be journalism? Holding power to account? Asking tough questions?
For much of the interview, the “Face The Nation” host treated Ivanka not as a senior White House adviser and one of the president’s closest confidantes, but as a cross between a “first daughter” invited onto the show to offer insights into her dad’s feelings and a political pundit invited onto the show to offer random observations on the impeachment process.
For example, rather than challenging this senior Trump administration official on the president’s refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas or allow senior White House staff to testify in front of the House or Senate, Brennan asked Ivanka only for her opinion. “Do you think that this should be a trial with witnesses and new evidence?”
To quote liberal writer Eric Boehlert, “for most Sunday shows, the blueprint remains the same: book a Republican and let them talk.” When Brennan asked Ivanka to address the cruel and callous policy of family separation at the border and the “900 children who remain separated from their families,” the senior adviser to the president dodged the question, claiming “immigration is not part of my portfolio,” before quickly changing the subject to human trafficking. Yet there was no follow-up, no pushback whatsoever, from the “Face the Nation” host.
Earlier this month, Ivanka was mocked for refusing to be interviewed by a journalist at the Doha Forum in Qatar, despite other world leaders and foreign government officials agreeing to do so. Sitting on stage in the Gulf, the senior White House adviser agreed to take questions only from a State Department spokesperson.
Here are a couple of the questions she was asked by the spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus:
- “Speaking of travels, you’ve been in Morocco recently. … Can you tell us more about the trip and highlights?”
- “You also returned on a swing through Latin America with our Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. Can you tell us about some of your impressions?”
Embarrassing, right? But is there really any substantive difference between these ridiculous “questions” from Ortagus, a former Fox News contributor, and the questions posed to Ivanka by award-winning Sunday morning host Margaret Brennan? In fact, to describe Brennan’s questions as softballs would be an insult to the great sport that was invented two years after Ivanka’s great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1885.
So here are a dozen better, and much tougher, questions that Margaret Brennan could — and should — have asked senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump on “Face the Nation.”
On Trump’s impeachment
1. You have criticized House Democrats for calling witnesses who “didn’t have firsthand knowledge” of the issues under investigation. So why didn’t your father allow Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, to testify in the House?
2. Do you believe it is appropriate for U.S. political leaders to call on foreign governments to dig up dirt on the children of their opponents? Would you be OK with the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 calling on, say, the Iranians to investigate you and your brothers?
3. You mentioned your father’s “mood” at the rally in Michigan on the night of the House impeachment vote, but would you be willing to apologize on his behalf to Rep. Debbie Dingell for suggesting, at that rally, that her late husband, John Dingell, might be in hell?
4. You said the president doesn’t “even feel like he was being impeached,” but what happened to that popular conservative adage: ‘Facts don’t care about your feelings?’”
On paid parental leave
5. You say the Democratic approach to paid parental leave has “grown stale” but don’t these new parental leave benefits for government employees more “closely resemble … the FAMILY Act,” proposed by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., than anything you or the Republicans came up with? Isn’t the truth that it was congressional Democrats who used your father’s “desire for a Space Force to extract funding for the new paid leave policy”?
6. Do you think it is hypocritical that you are here today on this show to promote this new policy of paid parental leave for government workers while the contractor that designed your own for-profit clothing line “does not offer workers a single day of paid maternity leave”?
7. You said a moment ago that “the fourth person I hired was pregnant when I hired her. So we put a policy [of paid leave] in place for her.” But she disagrees with you, doesn’t she? Your former chief marketing officer Marissa Kraxberger has written that she and her colleagues had to fight “long and hard to get [you] to finally agree to 8 weeks paid maternity leave.”
8. You are speaking today as a senior adviser to the president on women’s empowerment, so what do you say to at least 25 different women who have accused your father, the president, of sexual harassment and assault? What’s your response, in particular, to the accusation this past summer from the writer E. Jean Carroll that your father raped her in a department store changing room?
On Ivanka’s White House role
9. What do you think qualifies you to be a senior adviser to the president of the United States, and participate in talks with the leader of North Korea, given your background is in clothing and fashion?
10. What do you think qualifies your husband to be a senior adviser to the president of the United States, and a Middle East peace negotiator, given his background is in real estate?
11. In July 2018, you announced you were shutting down your clothing business to focus on your White House role advising your father, so why were you still getting trademarks from the Chinese government in November 2018? And how are all these trademarks not a massive conflict of interest?
12. You told ABC News that your father had “no involvement” in the granting of controversial security clearances to you and your husband, and yet we have since learned that Trump personally pushed for you both to be given clearances, against the advice of his then-chief of staff John Kelly and then-White House counsel Don McGahn. You weren’t telling the truth in that ABC News interview, were you?
Back in March 2018, I described Norah O’Donnell’s CBS “60 Minutes” interview with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known by his initials MBS, as a “crime against journalism.” It was, I argued, soft, superficial, and fawning.
But Brennan’s fact-free, kid-glove approach to Ivanka on “Face the Nation” this past weekend makes O’Donnell’s sit-down with MBS look like an interrogation.
So what is wrong with these highly paid, high-profile TV journalists and their bosses over at CBS News? Has their obsession with access, and with ratings, made them abandon the very concept and purpose of political journalism? Of TV interviews?
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Remember what then-CBS executive chairman and CEO, Les Moonves, said about the rise of Trump in February 2016? “It may not be good for America,” he declared, “but it’s damn good for CBS.”