Donald Trump and Kellyanne Conway — President Donald Trump‘s eldest son and a senior White House aide, respectively — were quick this week to dash off sharp criticisms of the prominent figures accused in an elaborate series of college admissions scams.
But Don Jr. was soon labeled a hypocrite based on his admission to a college where his dad had vowed to be a generous donor.
Don Jr. has not responded to those criticisms and a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, which he runs with his brother, Eric Trump, did not respond to a request for comment. (No member of the Trump family has been accused of any crimes related to their college admission.)
The social media back-and-forth this began with a string of tweets from both Conway, 52, and Don Jr., 41.
On Tuesday, after the news broke that Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among the dozens of people charged, Conway tweeted that the actresses must have “worried their daughters are as stupid as their mothers.”
In a second tweet on Tuesday, Conway listed off various suspects in the case including Huffman and Loughlin as well as top executives and others.
“YOU FAILED THESE KIDS,” she wrote.
Federal prosecutors allege there was a widespread effort by wealthy families to get their children into top colleges by falsifying SAT scores, lying about their athletic skills and more.
Huffman is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
She allegedly paid $15,000 to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer and his nonprofit organization and Singer’s group facilitated cheating on Huffman’s daughter’s SAT test by having a proctor correct her answers, according to prosecutors.
Loughlin and her husband, J. Mossimo Giannulli, have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
According to federal prosecutors, Loughlin allegedly wanted her daughters to get into the University of Southern California so badly that she and her fashion designer husband paid half a million dollars in bribes to falsely designate their daughters as recruits on the crew team — “thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
Don Jr. — who has been a vocal surrogate for his father, adopting many of his same incendiary social media tendencies — seemed to take particular pleasure in Huffman and Loughlin being accused.
He sarcastically re-posted old tweets from both of them, captioning a 2016 tweet from Huffman about the best “hacks” for back-to-school with, “I’m learning some new ones as we speak. Stay tuned.”
Tuesday afternoon, he tweeted, “Is it just me or is everyone in Hollywood strangely silent today? Come on guys you’re always very vocal in forcing your opinions on everyone… What changed?”
Author Tim O’Brien, a journalist, Trump biographer and longtime critic of the president, clapped back.
“Suddenly remembering that string of pledges by your father to Penn/Wharton in the 1990s — totaling at least $1.5 million — that coincided with the 1996 and 2000 enrollment there of you and Ivanka respectively,” O’Brien tweeted at Don Jr.
As the Washington Post details, “News reports and investigations suggest the Trumps used money and connections to ease their access to top schools.”
The Post cites the president’s pledged donations to Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, and, according to biographer Gwenda Blair, reports that the president himself was able to interview with a “friendly” admissions officer during his own entrance at Wharton.
Such efforts put them in good company.
According to Daniel Golden’s book The Price of Admission, there are many legal if morally dubious ways that wealth and status manipulate the officially objective college admissions process — via donations, networking and more.
“Many people now understand that the wealthy have an advantage in college admissions, so the perception has changed,” Golden, a senior editor at the news outlet ProPublica, tells PEOPLE. “The system though has not changed by fixing the problems. If anything they’ve gotten worse.”
Golden says there are many examples beyond those in the Trump family.
“When it comes to trying to get your kids into the elite colleges, it’s not a matter of party affiliation or ideology,” he says. “It’s across the board, which is one reason why it’s so hard to change.”
• with STEVE HELLING