Take me off the invite list! Socialite Suzanne Rogers ‘apologizes’ for her Trump photo op at Mar-a-Lago — but it’s too little, too late

Take me off the invite list! Socialite Suzanne Rogers ‘apologizes’ for her Trump photo op at Mar-a-Lago — but it’s too little, too late
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“Um … did Suzanne R really just post a pic at Mar-a-Lago with Trump in her Stories?? Or is that a cardboard cutout?”

That is how my day began, just shortly after 9 a.m. last Saturday, when a friend sent me the Code Orange alert, as I was picking up a Starbucks order. Hold the Americano.

Promptly diving into Instagram, I saw what she was seeing: six posts in a row, from the self-styled “philanthropist” and queen bee of Toronto society, posting from Trump Ground Zero in Palm Beach with the sort of zeal I associate with a teen at a One Direction concert in 2012 (and while Toronto sits in a lockdown, mind you). One of her photos was of a creepy painting of the ex-POTUS in a tennis sweater (“THE DONALD,” she captioned in all caps), but the clincher was a say-cheese of her and her family, including telecom honcho Ed Rogers (whose company just announced first quarter earnings of over $3 billion) with the man himself. It was not a cut-out. (“A special way to end the night!” Suzanne exclaimed.)

Mere hours later, Suzanne — whose style icon, she has said, is Truly Scrumptious from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” — deleted the pics, as expected. But the blowback? Just beginning.

Quickly, the side drama moved to the response from the Ryerson School of Fashion and then the non-response from Ryerson University (to both of which the socialite and her family have donated millions): where the social media account for the school issued a post slamming the flaunted photo-op with the proverbial face of white supremacy, politely asking for a meeting with Suzanne to express their concerns. That was soon taken down and replaced with an anesthetized, no-position post from the university. That, in turn, churned cries of a chill effect and kowtowing to donors (Ryerson University was called out by everyone from “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy to Chatelaine editor-in-chief Maureen Halushak). Resignations also followed from the advisory board of the school’s Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute.

For someone whose image had been meticulously managed over many years — see Suzanne welcoming Victoria Beckham to her home in Toronto for a lavish society lunch one year; at her manse with Diane von Furstenberg another; at the Four Seasons with Anna Wintour and presenting a trophy to Serena Williams (as she had done for several years at the Rogers Cup) — it was surprisingly blown up in a matter of seconds. Now the first thing that comes up on a Google search are references to her Mar-a-Lago misadventure (I checked). The scandal already figures prominently in her Wikipedia entry, too. (Good luck getting DVF on the horn now!)

And for what? “Amazing how years of philanthropy can be squandered by online social clout chasing,” a PR pro friend of mine told me. “I can’t understand the upside. It is either privilege (a.k.a. woeful ignorance) or stupidity. And I can’t decide which is worse.”

An insider at Rogers told me on Monday, “The directors (at the company) were in huddles all day brainstorming positioning,” to which I replied, “They should have done it by now. PR 101. It has only made it fester and grow.”

On Tuesday — more than 96 hours after the tempest erupted — there was official word. Suzanne issued a mea culpa , emphasizing that “no political statement, or any policy was intended by the photograph.” Duh. But what about the judgment? And what sort of bubble would you have to be in to not anticipate the response (in a culture where everyone and everything, including SoulCycle , has had to answer for their Trump ties over the last many years)?

Typically, too, the apology was of the weasly “Housewife” model: posting the photo was “done without considering the false assumptions and implications that would be made around my personal beliefs.” Translation: putting the blame and onus on who “misinterpreted,” rather than wholly taking responsibility. The old “I am sorry if you were hurt, not that I hurt you.”

Notably, the reaction from others in the wider Rogers family has also been conspicuously solemn about the Suzanne self-sabotage. “So unnecessary,” is what one of Edward’s siblings told a friend.

One social set staple — someone acquainted with the Rogers clan from their long-time perch at Lyford Cay in the Bahamas — told me: “It’s more than tone deaf … don’t think (Suzanne) is great at reading a room per se, but I can’t understand why she would think this is a good idea at all.”

The silence from so many other parts of the social swirl? Deafening. All those people who put up Black Squares on Instagram last May on #blackouttuesday to support Black Lives Matter proved what I largely thought it was then: performative hooey. Convenient. I mean, come on: calling this out, of all things — after the pain and the carnage of the last few years, especially for people of colour like myself — is not hard.

Fashion publicist Gail McInnes, meanwhile, piped in with this viewpoint: “The fashion industry does not need Suzanne Rogers’ money. Her contributions served her more than it did the industry, while only aiding a small handful of brands. She is not as powerful as we allowed her to be perceived. Speaking up is our power.”

I thought this was an interesting perspective — so much power is indeed co-mingled with perception and, being the self-aware sort, I realize how even people like myself contributed to her stature in this town (I remember being the first to do a profile of her more than 15 years ago!). And as for any fear I have of social reprisal by saying this, it would actually be a gift not to have to attend one of her parties or functions. Kindly disinvite me! Please! Put that one in the pyre titled: Been to one, Been to them All!

Another thing: why is Suzanne even on Instagram with the rest of the thirst-traps and relatable moms? It is not as if she has a brand to peddle or a country to rule (one reason why you find the likes of Aerin Lauder or Queen Rania on IG). I mean, lady, your family has a major-league baseball team. And haven’t you heard that true luxury today is being able to not post or share. That is the actual dream.
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