First daughter Ivanka Trump was accused of crimes against philosophy on Tuesday, after she posted a “Chinese proverb” that is not actually Chinese.
On the eve of President Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday, Ivanka tweeted, “Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.” -Chinese Proverb”
“Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.” -Chinese Proverb
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) June 11, 2018
But members of the popular Chinese social network Weibo couldn’t determine what proverb she was quoting.
One user thought she meant, “The foolish old man removed mountains,” a proverb used to denote perseverance. Others suggested, “Don’t give advice while watching others playing a chess game,” “Don’t force others to do things you don’t want to do yourself” and “It’s better to knit a fishnet instead of standing by the river and hoping for fish.”
Exasperation set in. “She saw it in a fortune cookie at Panda Express,” said another.
“Our editor really can’t think of exactly which proverb this is. Please help!” wrote the news channel affiliated with Weibo’s parent company on its social-media account.
“One proverb from Ivanka has exhausted the brain cells of all Chinese internet users,” a commenter concluded.
A Chinese scholar had his own take.
“You can call any old shit a Chinese proverb on the internet.”
— Brendan O’Kane (@bokane) June 11, 2018
Ultimately, a “Washington Post” editor may have solved the mystery. The site QuoteInstigator.com found that Ivanka’s epigram originated in an American magazine circa 1903. The saying was attributed to Confucius as a joke in the ’60s, and seemed to take on another life as a legitimate Confucius quote thereafter.
It’s been a rough few weeks for Ivanka on social media.
In late May, after reports surfaced that U.S. immigration agents were separating undocumented children from their parents and detaining them, Ivanka posted a photo of herself nuzzling one of her children on Instagram, leading to a social-media uproar and the Samantha Bee “c-word” controversy. Meanwhile, the United Nations has rebuked the U.S. separation policy as a potential human-rights violation.