Why The Hell Is Ivanka Trump Speaking At CES?

Why The Hell Is Ivanka Trump Speaking At CES?
Ivanka Trump reacts during an event on the theme “Promoting the place of women at work” at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan on June 29, 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump and so-called White House “advisor,” will be speaking at CES on Wednesday. But not everyone is happy about it. In fact, many people whom Gizmodo spoke with who are actually attending CES this year think it’s pretty weird that Ivanka Trump is getting a platform at America’s biggest tech show.

“It’s absolutely inappropriate,” Rahat Rashid, a PR representative, told Gizmodo in Las Vegas yesterday. “I mean, she’s supposed to be representing women in tech and how is she actually a woman in tech? There should be someone else doing that.”

Ivanka’s talk is called “The Path to the Future of Work,” likely centred around her lone legislative accomplishment: parental leave for some federal workers, excluding some gigantic government agencies like the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Even some CES attendees who consider themselves generally apolitical said that Ivanka was a very unfortunate choice for the annual consumer tech show, given the horrific things that the Trump regime has done over the past three years—from the family separation policy that saw at least six children die in U.S. custody to the Muslim travel ban.

“I think that she’s such a highly politicised figure that is so closely associated with an administration that has done terrible things,” noted Marshall, a tech journalist who said he’s attended roughly half a dozen CES shows and preferred not to give his last name. “It is a slap in the face to everyone here who has been harmed here directly, or indirectly by the administration.”

Historically, CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) has been a fairly conservative event in a lot of ways. CES is put on by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) trade group, whose president, Gary Shapiro, hasn’t been shy about discussing politics.

Shapiro has previously called the Barack Obama administration “anti-business” and praised President Trump after he got elected. Back in 2015, Shapiro gave money to Senator Marco Rubio, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in the last election, but he’s clearly a Trump guy these days, even if they don’t always agree on things like the trade war with China.

And that’s to say nothing of the socially conservative and sometimes misogynist elements that pop up repeatedly at CES. The show only banned “booth babes” for the first time this year, while as recently as 2018 the trade show banned sex toys as not being sufficiently tech-centric. (CES has lifted the ban on a trial basis this year.)

Where does all of this leave Ivanka Trump, one of the 21st century’s best case studies in nepotism? Right at home, it would seem. Ivanka has touted herself as the conscience of the Trump administration, sometimes even convincing Washington journalists to write puff pieces about her attempts to soften her father’s authoritarian desires. But somehow those “attempts” are always failures, and it’s not clear what role Ivanka actually has in the White House, aside from being one of the few women in a “leadership” role.

Shapiro will be conducting the interview with Ivanka this afternoon and has defended the choice to bring a Trump to CES amid a torrent of complaints.

“There’s a lot of focus on jobs of the future, and certainly the keynote that I’ll be doing with Ivanka Trump will be focusing on… how industry is working with government on this very important issue,” Shapiro told the BBC.

At the end of the day, most people who spoke with Gizmodo about Ivanka’s presence at CES gave answers with a half-grimace—that kind of uncomfortable smile you get when you’re salty about a thing but are still trying to be somewhat civil.

“I… the cynical part of me gets that it’s about lobbying and about the [CTA] playing ball, but um, just doesn’t feel great as a citizen of the world,” a tech journalist named Matt, who’d previously been to CES eight times, told Gizmodo. Matt declined to give his full name, given the political nature of the topic, but punctuated his speech with many deep, existential sighs.

Ivanka Trump is speaking at 2pm PST in the Venetian’s Palazzo Ballroom and Gizmodo will be there to get you all the highlights. Or whatever you want to call them.