As much of the world knows by now, Melania Trump used her visit to Africa last month as the backdrop for a fashion shoot masquerading as a charity appeal, in which she cosplayed scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Out of Africa.
Turns out, Ivanka almost beat her to it.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that after Melania Trump’s chief of staff announced during a White House meeting weeks ago that the first lady would be traveling to Africa for her first solo journey abroad, she got a jarring message from her stepdaughter.
As fate would have it, Ivanka was also planning to travel to Africa, the first lady’s aides were told, and just hadn’t gotten around to announcing her trip yet.
Melania and Ivanka Trump obviously couldn’t both disseminate near-identical handout pictures showing them hugging impoverished infants and petting orphaned elephants at the same time.
Melania’s trip ultimately won the day. (But oh, to have been a fly on the wall as the staffs slugged it out!)
The first lady spent five days last month visiting four countries in Africa – barely enough time to adjust the camera lenses and set up klieg lights in any one. She visited Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt, ostensibly as part of her “Be Best” initiative focusing on anti-bullying efforts, which was re-purposed temporarily for her Africa travels.
This is the same first lady, it bears pointing out, who in June wore a jacket bearing the words “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” as she visited a holding facility for migrant children torn from the arms of their parents. And it’s the same first lady whose husband smeared the collective nations of Africa as “shithole countries.”
News reports this month said the trip had a hefty price tag, with hotel accommodations for the Cairo leg alone costing $95,000 for a six-hour visit that didn’t even include an overnight stay.
Now comes word that president’s eldest daughter and senior adviser will follow suit, traveling to Africa after all with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, formerly an outspoken critic of the president, but who in recent weeks has become one of his most ardent supporters.
The Times says that Ivanka’s Africa travels “will showcase her role as an informal White House liaison with members of Congress and her interest in economic empowerment.” It’s not entirely clear what any of that has to do with Africa, but the pictures will doubtless be stunning.
There was a slight hitch in the two competing Africa trips, according to The Times, when the first daughter and First Lady ended up at cross purposes. Ivanka very nearly stole Melania’s thunder by allowing images of herself to be released in which she was seen with a black child.
Okay, it was a black child in the United States. But still.
The first lady’s office had asked West Wing officials to give her some space while she was in Africa so she could showcase the work she was doing, according to two people briefed on the discussion. There were widely distributed photographs of Mrs. Trump at several of the stops, including Accra, Ghana, where she was pictured cradling a small child.
The Times went on to write:
But two days later, Ivanka Trump posted on her Instagram feed a video filmed by the White House team that had a final image of her with a black child during a tour of storm-struck North Carolina. … Someone in the West Wing noticed it, and flagged it for the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly … Mr. Kelly discussed the video with Ms. Trump’s staff.
The newspaper does not spell out precisely how the crisis — of similar imagery of the first lady and the first daughter on competing goodwill tours involving black children — was resolved.
As for Ivanka Trump’s impending trip to Africa, The Times wrote that she rescheduled it to accommodate the first lady’s travel. It is now tentatively set for January.
And not to be outdone by her stepmother, who gave an hour-long television interview during her travels in Africa, The Times reported that a TV special for Ivanka may be in the works as well.