For months, Ivanka Trump has stayed pretty quiet online. Maybe she’s about to attempt a rebrand, or maybe she’s trying to lay low after calling the January 6 insurrectionists “American patriots” on Twitter. Or, maybe, she’s just standing in solidarity with her dad, who’s still banned from all social media. In any case, Ivanka broke her silence on Wednesday with some photos of herself getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Naturally, her supporters had thoughts — and conspiracy theories — on this.
In her post, Ivanka captioned a photo of herself wearing a white T-shirt while a nurse injects the vaccine into her arm, "Today, I got the shot!!! I hope that you do too! Thank you Nurse Torres!!!" That's when conspiracy theorists, particularly from QAnon, entered the chat. “Ivanka posted she got the ‘shot,’ not the COVID-19 vaccine. Did she actually get the shot? If she did, was it a B-12 shot. A flu shot? Hcq [Hydroxychloroquine]? Was she involved with [her husband Jared] Kushner? Is that really even her?” QAnon influencer GhostEzra wrote on Telegram, according to Newsweek. The same person previously alleged that the vaccine was somehow related to or code for “the Great Awakening,” during which QAnon followers believe former U.S. President Donald Trump would carry out mass arrests and save America from a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.
“Did she get the COVID vaccine/gene therapy, or is this another type of shot like Vitamin B-12, Flu shot etc?? It’s not very specific. There seems to be no way to tell for sure,” wrote another user, QAnon John, before echoing the question evidently on everyone’s mind: “Is that even REALLY her?!”
To summarize, conspiracy theorists seem to believe that the photo of Ivanka was doctored or staged, the injection was just saline, or even that the former first daughter was replaced by a body double. Several have suggested that she intentionally used the word “shot” instead of “COVID vaccine” to mislead the public. Nearly 30,000 people have commented on her photo, with many Trump supporters expressing their disappointment, shock, and disbelief.
The outrage is bizarre, given Ivanka isn’t even the first member of her family to receive or promote the vaccine. Donald and Melania Trump were both vaccinated in January, and although he declined to receive the shots in front of cameras, Trump did tell his supporters that the vaccine is safe. “I would recommend it to a lot of people that don't want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” he told Fox News. “But again, we have our freedoms and we have to live by that, and I agree with that also. But it is a great vaccine. It is a safe vaccine and it is something that works.”
But QAnon supporters have continued well after the election to peddle unfounded concerns about the COVID vaccine. Another popular QAnon theory is that Bill Gates and other elites are attempting to use the vaccine to microchip Americans. Because some of Trump’s supporters are also eager to thank and credit him for the vaccine, it’s difficult to follow the logic here.
“Since QAnon is essentially a choose-your-own-adventure, followers are cherry-picking false vaccine narratives as they wish, resulting in multiple interpretations of and explanations for President Trump’s support of the vaccine,” Cindy Otis of Alethea Group, a disinformation investigations and remediation firm, told Yahoo! News. “Some claim that his comments around the vaccine are actually code for other ‘plans’ coming to fruition.”
Ivanka has not yet responded to the backlash, which has now put her at the centre of a conspiracy theory — once again. And rather than take responsibility for the QAnon believers, who have only entered mainstream consciousness because her family perpetuated their beliefs, she's choosing to stay silent. This might just be yet another sign that the whole Trump family should stay logged out.