Kim Kardashian’s Loud Silence on Trump
The reality star/entrepreneur/activist keeps refusing to address “the big orange elephant in the room,” writes Jordan Julian.
Kim Kardashian West is a lot of things.
Over the course of the past ten years, in congruence with her skyrocketing fame and fortune, she has evolved from reality star to fashion icon to household name. She is the wife of Jesus-obsessed rapper/aspiring cult leader Kanye West, and she’s the mother of four children. Kardashian West can be called a beauty mogul and entrepreneur, with her cosmetics brand, KKW Beauty, several fragrances, and a new, controversial shapewear line. Speaking of that poorly named shapewear collection, she’s also a sometimes-cultural-appropriator (she once wore her hair in cornrows and called them “Bo Derek braids.”)
Most recently and intriguingly, however, Kardashian West has assumed the role of political and legal activist. In April, she donned her Elle Woods hat to begin an apprenticeship at a San Francisco law firm with the hope of eventually becoming a lawyer. And beginning in 2018, when she successfully urged President Trump to commute Alice Marie Johnson’s life sentence for a non-violent drug offense, the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star has lobbied the White House for support on various issues, from criminal justice reform to recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In a cover story for New York magazine published on Monday, she discussed her “political awakening,” though somehow, Trump’s name never directly came up.
“When I have visited the White House, if I feel like something isn’t fair, I’ll say something, maybe privately,” the 39-year-old told New York. “And if I plant a seed, great. Everyone was so worried about me, about my reputation, going to the White House, and it was like, ‘A life or my reputation?’” Though it is not entirely clear from this obliquely-phrased quote, similar statements from past interviews suggest that she is referring to concerns about the effect working with President Trump specifically would have on her reputation. When Kardashian West appeared on The View in September, Meghan McCain asked her if she was worried about backlash for teaming up with Trump to pass the First Step Act bill.
“I was definitely aware [of the backlash],” she responded diplomatically. “But for me, any of my issues have always been more about the people and not the politics. And so, for me to think that I couldn’t go and speak to the man that has the power to change people’s lives because of some opinions I may have of certain policies and issues, to me felt very self-centered.”
Kim K’s careful sidestepping of addressing Trump is unfortunately more complicated than mere bipartisanship, due largely to the friendship between the president and her MAGA hat-wearing husband. During the 2016 election, Kardashian West endorsed Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent. At the time, clearing up rumors that she had changed her mind and would vote for Trump after all, she wrote on her website that she was prioritizing issues like gun control and women’s reproductive rights. “I found that without a doubt, I stand with Hillary. I’m with her. I believe Hillary will best represent our country and is the most qualified for the job,” she wrote.
Kanye West, however, has always been a vocal Trump supporter. While the temperamental rapper says he’s never voted before, he has met with the Republican president in the Oval Office several times and has done interviews condemning “liberal bullies.” There are even photos of the unlikely pair hugging and grinning, a rare occurrence for the famously stony-faced musician. His defense of Trump often takes the form of hard-to-follow or straight-up nonsensical rants, like a 2018 speech backstage at SNL. Kim, meanwhile, has said that she does not always agree with her husband’s politics, but she has never specified which points they disagree on or pointed to which Trumpian policies she takes issue with. It is also worth noting that Kanye has a demonstrated history of extremely controlling behavior towards Kim, and his attempts to monitor her public image have been disconcertingly effective in the past.
At the very least Kardashian West is sending mixed messages, indicating that her public image is more important to her than she wants us to believe (shocking!) when she delivers the clearly rehearsed, “Saving a life, or saving my reputation?” line. On multiple occasions, she has publicly given Trump credit for the administration’s criminal justice efforts, like calling his shift from being “really harsh” on prison reform to signing the First Step Act bill “amazing” on The View. She also thanked the president, Jared Kushner, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for freeing A$AP Rocky from detainment in Sweden over the summer. Yet, she continues to insist that it doesn’t matter who is taking action, as long as somebody is, downplaying the importance of Trump’s role.
“I don’t care who it is,” she told New York. “I’m just glad someone is listening and making a change. I hope to have an amazing relationship with the next president. I hope to still have a voice for people on the inside, who do not care at all who sign their commutation paper.” No mention of the big orange elephant in the room. The bottom line is that regardless of how many times Kardashian West vaguely says she doesn’t agree with all of Trump’s political views, he still benefits from the clout of being seen and photographed with the stratospherically-famous couple.
Still, the multi-hyphenate celebrity undoubtedly deserves credit for wielding her massive platform to enact change. The purpose of the New York cover was to solidify her status as a defining cultural icon of the decade, and it would frankly be irresponsible for someone of that level of influence to stay silent on the issues that affect her millions of followers. Though Kardashian West does not see herself ever running for office—and really, the last thing we need is another reality-star president—she doesn’t plan to stop advocating anytime soon. “I hope I will always be…advising in some way,” she said. “I’m hoping that we can put together a really good clemency board that could be really helpful to the White House.”