On Wednesday, Kim Kardashian West dropped by the White House for a meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office. The focus of the meeting? Kim’s new raison d’etre: requesting a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a great-grandmother now serving a life sentence for a nonviolent offense.
Kardashian West has been advocating for Johnson for over a year now, and has been outspoken about Johnson’s cause on her Twitter, in between sparring with Rhymefest and ruminating on motherhood. Wednesday’s meeting was the latest in Kardashian West’s efforts to secure clemency for Johnson; she’d previously been in contact with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, both of whom proved instrumental in getting the president involved with Johnson’s case.
Kim isn’t the only member of the extended Kardashian-Jenner-West clan to rub shoulders with Trump in recent years, of course. Husband and apparent Trump stan Kanye stopped by Trump Tower to “discuss multicultural issues” with the then president-elect in 2016.
It’s unclear what, if any, actions Trump will take in regards to Johnson’s case, but after Wednesday’s visit, Kardashian West took to Twitter to express her gratitude for the meeting all the same.
Trump responded in kind, tweeting a picture of himself and Kardashian West in the oval office.
The whole thing smacks of a sly publicity stunt on Trump’s end. He positively leers next to Kardashian West in the photo, his gleeful, cunning grin at odds with her tense pose and serious expression. This photo and Trump’s subsequent tweet belie the actual point of the meeting: to discuss the case of Alice Johnson and prison reform as a whole. Even though Kardashian West seemed earnest in her mission, in the end she was nothing more than a prop in Trump’s ongoing efforts to get A-list celebrities to endorse him (see: his star-studded RNC that wasn’t.)
Kardashian West’s photo with Trump seems de rigueur for a meeting with a man who’s made no secret of his misguided eagerness for Hollywood’s approval. Matt Damon revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that any film shooting in a Trump building was required to write a bit part specifically for Trump in the film if they wished to secure a location permit. It’s unlikely that Kardashian West’s photo with the president was a required part of their meeting, but for a man who so desperately wants to gain A-list favor, the photo reads as a not-so-subtle boast to his detractors.
There’s been a wave of misogynistic backlash against Kardashian West in the aftermath of her White House visit, most notably by the New York Post. Kim Kardashian West was renamed “Kim Thong Un” on their cover for today, and her meeting with Trump was described as “the other big ass summit.” It’d be clever, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s deeply sexist.
Even the New York Daily News dismissed her on today’s cover as an “overrated reality TV star” who was “the only Kim he could get,” largely ignoring the fact that she went to the White House to discuss the specific case of Alice Johnson and the larger issue of prison reform.
Under the Trump administration, these kinds of reactions aren’t uncommon. Trump, himself a notorious misogynist, understands the power a photo with an A-list celebrity can hold; he took a similarly chummy photo with Kanye in 2016 during Yeezy’s visit to Trump Tower. But his photo with Kim is particularly disturbing, considering the fact that for Trump, most beautiful women are merely pussies to be grabbed or asses to be smacked, not advocates for actual issues such as prison reform.
The president’s meeting with Kardashian West is, at its most basic level, a desire to prove himself worthy of A-list attention in an industry that’s decidedly liberal and largely contemptuous of his politics. Whether or not he succeeded, only time will tell.