Brow Beat

Hope Hicks Is Facing an Existential Question

Donald Trump pointing to Hope Hicks as if to say, "She is complicit in all of this."
Sharing credit. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Congress subpoenaed me today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the House Judiciary Committee: “You’re subpoenaed. June 19. Faithfully yours.” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.

For the third time I refused to see the New York Times. I don’t have anything to say to them; I don’t feel like talking, and I’ll be seeing them soon enough as it is. I was lying down, meticulously highlighting every appearance of Donald Trump’s name on a stack of news stories I’d printed out from Google News out of force of habit, and I could tell from the golden glow in the sky that evening was coming on and also that I was probably going to get away with everything.

It was at that exact moment that the reporter came in. When I saw her I felt a little shudder go through me. She noticed it and told me not to be afraid over a congressional subpoena. I told her that I’d shuddered at her off-the-rack wardrobe and furthermore wasn’t speaking to the press. She replied that it was just a friendly visit and had nothing to do with the subpoena, but if I would like to chat with her about it, she would be very interested in making sure the public heard my side of the story. She sat down on my couch and invited me to sit next to her. I refused. All the same, there was something very gentle and credulous about her.

Suddenly she raised her head and looked straight at me. “Why have you refused an on-the-record interview?” I said that I didn’t have much respect for the New York Times. She looked away and without moving asked me if I wasn’t talking that way out of extreme despair. I explained to her that I wasn’t desperate, I was contemptuous, which was only natural. “But the Times can help you,” she said. “Everyone I have known in your position has talked to us, or at least written a disingenuous op-ed.” I acknowledged that that was their right. It also meant they must have had the time for it. As for me, I didn’t need anybody’s help and I just didn’t have the time to talk to people who weren’t on my side.

“But Ms. Hicks,” she said, putting her hand on my shoulder. “We are on your side. We just have no way of explicitly expressing our sympathies, because we’re still dining out on an antiquated conception of press neutrality, so the public has to infer the conscious and unconscious biases informing our coverage based on how far we bend over backwards to treat your decision whether or not to ignore a congressional subpoena like you’re Hamlet in the fucking chapel or something. We shall also arrange a glossy photoshoot.”

Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted her and told her not to waste her column inches on me. I was pouring out on her everything that was in my heart, which was almost enough to fill a thimble. The New York Times seemed so impartial and fair about everything, didn’t it? And yet its theatrical judiciousness was worth exactly as much to me as one hair on the head of one of the immigrant children I’d helped murder: nothing. I wasn’t even sure the press was still alive, because it reacted to what we’d done and were still doing like a dead man. In the press, it might look I was facing an existential question. But I was sure it was just a congressional subpoena, sure I could ignore it, and sure the media would trick people into thinking it was some kind of important moral dilemma or interesting legal question instead of just another example of Republican lawlessness. I had been right, I was still right, I was always right. I had lived my life one way and I could have lived it another. I had done this and I hadn’t done that. I had worked for the Trump administration and I hadn’t not worked for the Trump administration. And so? Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why. So did she. Throughout the whole absurd life I’d lived, a dark wind had been rising toward us from somewhere deep in our future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, it leveled every opportunity for a world that was more just and less vicious, in timelines no more real than the one in which Donald Trump was president. What did other people’s deaths or a congressional subpoena mean to me; what did the New York Times or the lives people choose or the presidents they think they elect matter to me when we’re all ruled by the same ideology, me and millions of white people like me. Couldn’t she see, couldn’t she see that? Everybody was white. There were only white people. The others would all be condemned one day. The New York Times would be condemned too. What would it matter if a newspaper was branded an enemy of the people and razed to the ground because Donald Trump was feeling cranky one morning? The press was just as guilty as the electorate, or as the Democrats who treated us as some kind of anomaly instead of the next step in a long progression … And that sometime in the not-too-distant future … All the shouting had me gasping for air. But my publicist had already decided the interview was over and was showing the reporter the door. She looked at me for a minute without saying anything. Her eyes were full of tears, and I knew I could expect sympathetic coverage. Then she turned and disappeared.

With her gone, I was able to calm down again. I was exhausted, and threw myself on my Ralph Lauren Home “Sonoma Valley” Duvet, paired with the Ralph Lauren Home “Cortona” bed blanket and accented with a Ralph Lauren Home “Watney” throw pillow. I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke up, the only light in the room came from my Ralph Lauren Home “Westbury” chandelier. The sound of my Ralph Lauren Black Tie Collection promotional CD softly playing on an endless loop was drifting in from the living room. Smells of Ralph Lauren Home Amalfi Coast scented candles, Ralph Lauren Home Joshua Tree scented candles, and Ralph Lauren Home Rhinelander Flagship candles were cooling my temples. The wonderous peace of aspirational lifestyle branding flowed through me like a tide. Then, in the dark hour before dawn, my iPhone beeped. It was announcing a tweetstorm from the president, gloating about doing stupid and terrible things to people who now and forever meant nothing to me. For the first time in a long time I thought about the Donald. I felt I understood why at the end of his term he was talking about “infrastructure,” why he was playing at beginning again. So close to impeachment, Donald must have felt free and ready to run for president once more. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over him, not that anybody ever would. And I felt ready to run for president, too. As if that blind rage had washed me clean and rid me of Hope, for the first time, in that night alive with Twitter notifications, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the Donald’s sociopathy. Finding him so like myself—so like a big brother, really—I felt that I had been the White House Communications Director and I would always be the White House Communications Director. For everything to be made great again, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be the largest audience to ever witness congressional hearings—period—on the day of my testimony, and that they greet me with chants of “Lock her up.”