AS SHE EXITS the White House, Hope Hicks got the usual treatment from “Saturday Night Live” — which for women of the Trump administration is pretty sexist.
In the opening skit, Alec Baldwin, as President Trump, describes his 29-year-old communications director as “so smart, so hot.” Bemoaning her resignation, he declares, “I hate seeing her go, but I love watching her walk away.” In a later segment, Cecily Strong portrays Hicks as a Valley Girl adrift in the nation’s capitol. Explaining why the media “has been so nice to me, like insanely nice to me,” Hicks says, “ ’Cause my hair and face are good.”
Being young and beautiful is a double-edged sword for women in politics or business. Coverage of Hicks is softer than that of other Trump associates. But she also gets less credit for the intelligence and resourcefulness it takes to rise to the top of any organization, even one defined by Trump-style chaos. She’s so glamorous that, when she resigned, Politico published “21 photos of Trump’s right-hand woman.” She was often described as a former model, with no political background, who had mysteriously worked her way into Trump’s inner circle. Or maybe not so mysteriously, given the anecdote in Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the White House,” which recounts how Hicks was in charge of steaming Trump’s suit while he was still in it — as if no male aide has ever fetched dry-cleaning or performed other menial tasks for their boss.
Noting the “gendered media coverage” of the now outgoing communications director, Laura McGann wrote in Vox, “Routinely, major media outlets have questioned Hicks’s experience, doubted her contributions to the campaign and inside the White House, and implied her looks are relevant . . . to anything.” And, as McGann also points out, Barack Obama’s 27-year-old speechwriter Jon Favreau “was given the wunderkind” moniker. But Hicks never got Wonder Woman respect.
That’s largely due to her boss. Trump’s view of women as ornamental and there for his grabbing diminishes the importance of women who work for him. Hicks is also a victim of her own missteps. But her sheer attractiveness also undercuts her ability to be taken seriously — even as her closeness to Trump put her in serious legal jeopardy.
She was, as The New York Times put it, “a communications director who rarely spoke.” When she finally did, her words got her in trouble. She acknowledged telling “white lies” for the president. Admitting that truth to the House Intelligence Committee reportedly enraged Trump.
Hicks also told the committee none of her truth-trimming had anything to do with matters relating to the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. But the role she played in drafting a response to news reports about a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians is under scrutiny. The initial statement, written while Trump and Hicks were aboard Air Force One, said the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption program. E-mails later showed that Donald Trump Jr. gleefully scheduled the meet-up with the promise of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Hicks’s relationship with Rob Porter, the White House aide who resigned last month after allegations of abuse from two former wives became public, was also problematic. The two were said to be dating, according to The New York Times, at the same time Hicks was also involved in drafting statements that initially defended Porter. Supposedly, they are no longer an item, but “Saturday Night Live” made light of that situation too. The Hicks character notes that the White House was filled with “classic bad boys. . . . They’ve all hit a girl.” When she’s asked if she’s OK with it, she answers: “I was like a kid in a candy store. I was like, uh, I think I’m gonna like it here.”
SNL aimed similarly dark comedy at Kellyanne Conway, when Kate McKinnon portrayed her as a desperate “Fatal Attraction” female, stalking CNN’s Jake Tapper in an effort to get booked on his show. All’s fair in humor and politics. Yet, if you’re a woman working for Trump, there’s nothing funny about the ending. And for Hicks, there could yet be serious consequences.Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.