As the memorial service for Senator John McCain got underway Saturday, some viewers couldn’t help but express disbelief and anger that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were spotted among the mourners at Washington National Cathedral — after President Donald Trump was reportedly asked not to attend.
Had they been invited? Sort of, it appears, and not directly by the McCain family.
New York Times White House correspondent Katie Rogers tweeted that GOP Senator Lindsey Graham had asked Ivanka Trump, a White House senior advisor, to attend when they met on Capitol Hill earlier this week and the first daughter shared her condolences. A White House official told Rogers that Graham thought it would be “a nice gesture” for her and her husband, also a White House senior advisor, to attend.
The official said that the South Carolina senator cleared it with McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain, first.
But their presence at the service was widely criticized by people on Twitter, making their names top trending topics as McCain’s family and friends and national political leaders listened to the eulogies and scripture readings. Some tweeted that Graham’s request of Cindy McCain, and Ivanka Trump’s decision to attend, lacked class and was “inappropriate.”
Criticism may have crossed party lines, with people, commenting on the coverage by the usually Trump-friendly Fox News, expressing distaste and even outrage at their attendance.
If there was any consolation for those who thought the couple didn’t belong, they had to sit through remarks by Meghan McCain, George Bush, Barack Obama, Joe Lieberman and Henry Kissinger that were seen as rebukes of Trump’s divisive rhetoric and controversial policies.
Steve Schmidt, the senior campaign strategist and advisor for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said on MSNBC, upon seeing the couple arrive: “Jared and Ivanka are on the side of a movement that stands for everything that John McCain was against, and opposed, and fought against for his entire life.”
In May, Schmidt famously renounced his membership in the Republican Party over Trump’s policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S. border with Mexico. He said in an interview: “We have in America — right now, at this hour — to understand that you have a lawless president, a vile president, a corrupt president, a mean, cruel president, who is seeking to remake the world order.”
With regard to Ivanka Trump and Kushner being at the service, much was made of Meghan McCain’s moving, tearful eulogy on behalf of her father who died last weekend of brain cancer at age 81. She honored the Arizona Republican as a loving father, as well as a independent-minded politician and a Navy war hero who survived nearly six years of captivity during the Vietnam War.
People wondered how the first daughter and her husband were reacting to some of Meghan McCain’s comments, which were seen as direct rebukes of Trump — even though she never once mentioned his name. Trump, who never served in the military, often disparaged McCain, especially his war service by saying he “was not a war hero” because he was captured.
One of Meghan McCain’s comments also drew rare mid-eulogy applause when she said, looking out into the crowd, her voice tinged with anger: “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America has always been great.”
Someone on Twitter asked: “Ivanka and Jared did you hear that?”
Some wondered whether Ivanka Trump and Kushner regarded the service as a “photo-op” or as a “social event” where they hoped to mingle with America’s top political movers and shakers, including Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. But one person, trying to explain their presence, wondered whether Meghan Meghan had once been friends with Ivanka Trump.
Meanwhile, footage of Ivanka Trump and Kushner, showing them looking down at their laps, also prompted some to ask whether they were on their phones texting.
Washington Post White House bureau chief Phillip Rucker tweeted that Trump was “truly upstaged” Saturday morning. He “tweeted NAFTA threats, but cable news is not cutting in with bulletins,” focusing instead on the eulogies by Meghan McCain, former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Secretary of State Kissinger and former Presidents Bush and Barack Obama.
But about halfway through Meghan McCain’s eulogy, Rucker tweeted, Trump apparently tried to draw attention to himself by getting into a motorcade at the White House, wearing a Make America Great Again hat. It was later reported that Trump had headed to his golf course in Virginia.
This story has been updated to include the tweet by New York Times White House correspondent Katie Rogers explaining that Senator Lindsey Graham had suggested Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner attend.
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