Monday, June 20, 2016

Hope Hicks, the 27-Year-Old Accidental Press Secretary for Donald Trump

From Olivia Nuzzi, at GQ:

From the antechamber to Donald Trump's office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, I was fetched by Hope Hicks. She was apologetic for the wait and a little nervous about what I'd come to discuss—namely, her.

The 27-year-old press secretary was clad in a teal dress, and she dug her stilettos into the colorless carpet as she showed me into the office, a room festooned with enough Trump memorabilia to suggest a serial killer's shrine. There before me sat Trump himself, behind his giant desk, upon which there was nothing resembling a computer, a PalmPilot, or even an Etch A Sketch.

“Oh,” Trump said, flashing his notorious disdain for handshakes as I extended my arm. He stood and reached, Martian-like, for my hand, as if the ritual were not the habit of businessmen or politicians. Hicks, meanwhile, settled into a $5,000 red velvet Knoll lounge chair. She affixed a smile to her face, and then said nothing more to me. As if speaking were not the habit of a spokesperson. But then, Hicks—who never appears on TV and rarely talks to reporters—resembles a traditional political spokesperson about as much as Trump resembles Mister Rogers.

Hicks is a product not of Washington but of the Trump Organization, a marble-walled universe where one's delightful agreeability and ferocious loyalty are worth more than conventional experience. She is a hugger and a people pleaser, with long brown hair and green eyes, a young woman of distinctly all-American flavor—the sort that inspires Tom Petty songs, not riots. And yet Hicks has, almost by accident, helped architect the strangest and least polite campaign in modern American history.

I wanted Hicks to help me understand just how all this had come to pass, how a person who'd never worked in politics had nonetheless become the most improbably important operative in this election. But she declined my request to talk. Instead, she arranged something more surreal: I could talk about her with Donald Trump, in front of her.

Trump, of course, has little experience with subjects other than Trump, which he made clear when I asked him about Hicks's quick ascent to his inner circle. “Bill O'Reilly last night said it is the greatest political event in his lifetime,” Trump said, exaggerating O'Reilly's point. “The most incredible political event in his lifetime! That's pretty big. You know, who knew this was going to happen? So…” He pivoted, reluctantly, to the topic at hand. “Hope's been involved from the beginning, and she has been absolutely terrific.”

Hicks's job—a sui generis role of outsize importance that she half invents on the fly—involves keeping the media at bay and operating as Trump's chief gatekeeper. But she's also summoned in critical moments of confusion to play instigator and score-settler. It was her job to facilitate Trump's rebuke of the Pope after His Holiness questioned the Christianity of anybody who would build a border wall (kind of Trump's thing). And it was she who helped malign a female reporter who'd been manhandled by Trump's campaign manager, immediately claiming she was a lying attention hound. Hicks was also called on this spring to explain why Trump, over the course of three days, advocated four positions on abortion. She tried without success to quell the confusion, declaring, finally, that President Trump would end abortion, simple as that: “He will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn.”

Still, for all the grenades Hicks has to both jump on and lob, it's a more quotidian skill set that seems to impress the boss. “If you see her phone going”—he raised both hands and mimicked Hicks answering several devices—“ ‘This is Hope. This is Hope. This is Hope.’ ” He hung up the make-believe phones. “She gets a call a minute, probably,” he said, seemingly pleased with this antiquated barometer of his own popularity...
More at that top link.