What really happened to Ivanka Trump on JetBlue

TMZ’s unsourced story contradicted by eyewitness.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of President-elect Donald Trump, looks out of an elevator as she arrives as at Trump Tower, Monday, Nov. 21, 2016 in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Ivanka Trump, daughter of President-elect Donald Trump, looks out of an elevator as she arrives as at Trump Tower, Monday, Nov. 21, 2016 in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

On Thursday, JetBlue Airways grounded a passenger who confronted Ivanka Trump about her father, President-elect Donald Trump.

The narrative of the account was set by TMZ, which has a friendly relationships with the Trumps. The gossip site, which did not cite sources, wrote that “an out-of-control passenger on her flight began verbally berating [Ivanka] and ‘jeering’ at her 3 kids.” Conservative website The Daily Caller said that Ivanka had been “berated” and “harassed.”

“To do that to a woman who was on there with her children, I don’t care what your political background is or what your thoughts are, that’s not the way we as Americans need to act,” Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday on Fox News.

That narrative, however, was flatly contradicted by someone who actually witnessed the incident. Marc Scheff, who sat in the “next row up from Ivanka,” wrote in a Facebook post that Daniel Goldstein, the passenger who confronted Ivanka, had been “agitated for sure” and that she told JetBlue staff, “I don’t want to make this a thing.”

He did not yell. He was also not what I would describe as calm. Agitated for sure. His husband behind him was very calm. His son is adorable and sharply dressed.

When the JetBlue staff went back to speak to the man I overheard Ivanka say to them “I don’t want to make this a thing.” My assessment is that she was happy to let the man take his seat. She handled the situation calmly and with class. Security made the call to remove the man.

And for good reason. The man’s calm husband had tweeted earlier that his husband was “chasing them down to harass them.”

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Goldstein himself had been calm when he told Ivanka that her father is “ruining our country,” according to his husband Matthew Lasner.

Lasner tweeted at the time of the incident, “My husband expressed his displeasure in a calm tone, JetBlue staff overheard, and they kicked us off the plane.” However just an hour earlier the Daily Mail reported that Lasner tweeted, “My husband chasing them down to harass them.”

Lasner’s account has since been deleted.

TMZ’s portrayal differed radically from on-the-record accounts. This follows a pattern of favorable coverage of Trump by TMZ, which has been rewarded with access. President-elect Trump gave TMZ founder Harvey Levin a private tour of his home in New York City for a television special. The “OBJECTified: Donald Trump” special was meant to show a kinder side to Trump where he shared memories growing up in Queens, NY.

No one who was not on the plane knows exactly what transpired. There is certainly a case to be made that Ivanka was with her children and should not have been approached at all.

But TMZ’s unsourced sensationalized coverage set the tone for how other tabloid and media outlets covered the incident. The New York Post front page said “Dems are attacking Trump’s kids” while the New York Daily News called Goldstein a “plane idiot.”

Presidential children are traditionally given a degree of privacy and deference. But the president-elect plans to place his children Don Jr. and Eric in charge of the Trump organization during his presidency while he himself maintains ownership. Trump has also given Ivanka an office in the East Wing typically reserved for the First Lady. That will be renamed the “Office of the First Family.” According to CNN, Ivanka “is likely to play the part of Washington hostess as well as advise her father on issues including family leave to climate change.”

UPDATE: The post has been corrected to reflect that The Forward did not interview Goldstein directly.