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Fox hires former White House official Hope Hicks as communications director

Hope Hicks will relocate to Los Angeles as head of corporate communications for New Fox. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Hope Hicks, Donald Trump’s campaign press secretary and later his first White House communications director, was named Monday as the head of corporate communications for New Fox, the successor to Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox.

The appointment will place Hicks, 29, in charge of communications for a company that will oversee Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcast network and other entities controlled by Rupert Murdoch.

Hicks’s hiring follows Trump’s appointment of various figures from Fox News, including Bill Shine, the network’s former co-president. Shine effectively replaced Hicks in June when he was named deputy chief of staff for communications.

New Fox is the corporate entity that will be formed after 21st Century sells many of its assets to the Walt Disney Co. The $71 billion deal is likely to be completed early next year, leaving Murdoch with a company that will focus on televising news, sports and entertainment.

Hicks left the White House in February after a chaotic first year for the administration. Among other issues, she was involved in crafting the White House’s response to the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 campaign.

Hicks reportedly urged administration officials, including the president, to be more transparent in characterizing a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian representatives who offered negative information about Hillary Clinton.

The president reportedly dictated a misleading public statement released by Hicks characterizing the encounter as a “short, introductory meeting” in which the participants “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.”

In February, Hicks was involved in directing the White House’s shifting and confusing response to abuse allegations against staff secretary Rob Porter, whom she was dating at the time. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly initially said he fired Porter 40 minutes after learning of the allegations. It later became clear that White House officials, including Kelly, knew for months about the allegations.

In testimony before a House committee investigating the Russia allegations in February, Hicks acknowledged that she had told “white lies” on occasion for Trump, but insisted that she had been truthful in her statements to the committee.

Hicks was formerly a top communications officer for the Trump Organization. She was an early recruit to Trump’s campaign, joining it several months before he announced his candidacy in June 2015.

Shine and Hicks are part of a growing list of people who have transited between Fox and the Trump administration. The list includes former Fox contributors John Bolton (now national security adviser); Richard Grenell (now ambassador to Germany); Mercedes Schlapp (now White House director of strategic communications), and Tony Sayegh (now a spokesman for the Treasury Department). A former Fox News reporter, Heather Nauert, is the top spokesman for the State Department.

Two people familiar with the discussions said Hicks first discussed joining Fox with Suzanne Scott, Fox News’s chief executive, drawing the Fox-White House connection even tighter.

Hicks’s primary responsibility will be advising the new company on broader public-relations strategy as the Murdoch family navigates its evolving empire, which will be far smaller than the news-and-entertainment colossus that Murdoch built before agreeing to sell much of the company to Disney. Fox News has its own communications staff; Hicks will be responsible for the overall corporate strategy.

Former and future colleagues noted on Monday that Hicks’s new job is similar to her White House job in that she is dealing with a tough principal, Murdoch, who is often in the news and faces lots of controversy.

At New Fox, Hicks will succeed two executives who oversaw 21st Century Fox’s communications when Fox News was beset by multiple sexual harassment allegations, including against its co-founder Roger Ailes and top star Bill O’Reilly. The executives, Julie Henderson and Nathaniel Brown, are not joining New Fox.

She will be based in Los Angeles, according to an announcement by Viet Dinh, the company’s chief legal and policy officer.

The appointment was cheered by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who tweeted Monday, “FOX won’t find anyone smarter or more talented than Hope Hicks. So happy for my friend. They are beyond lucky to have you and the East Coast misses you already.”

New Fox also appointed Danny O’Brien as its head of government relations. O’Brien has previously been chief of staff to three Democratic senators: Joe Biden (Del.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Robert Torricelli (N.J.). He was also staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was most recently an executive at General Electric.