President Trump on Wednesday commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson after reality TV star Kim Kardashian West advocated for the woman’s release during a recent White House visit.
Kardashian tweeted that it was the “BEST NEWS EVER!!!,” accompanied by three praying-hands emoji.
As soon as the news hit Twitter last week that Kardashian was meeting with Trump to discuss prison reform and a potential pardon for Johnson, out came the jokes, the harsh derision, the pleas to escape Earth.
“Forget about the fact that Kim Kardashian is here at the White House today and what planet that is anything resembling normal, because it’s not,” CNN’s Jim Acosta said on air last Wednesday. “She shouldn’t be here talking prison reform. It’s very nice that she is here, but that’s not a serious thing to have happened here at the White House.”
Trump — who saw his own star power propelled by reality TV — tweeted a photo of the White House visit that the New York Post used to make not one, not two, but three Kardashian butt jokes on its cover (“Trump meets rump” and “Kim Thong Un” among them).
Johnson’s case first came to Kardashian’s attention after she saw a Mic story about the 63-year-old great-grandmother on Twitter and soon got her lawyer, Shawn Holley, involved.
Maybe those ridiculing Kardashian didn’t realize she was bringing her attorney with her. Or that the main point of her visit was to bring Johnson’s case to Trump’s attention (Johnson was serving a life term for a nonviolent drug crime), not to explain intricate policy changes.
Regardless, her involvement became an easy target. Kardashian serves as an avatar for the most vapid and derided kind of celebrity. People love to hate her and her family for being famous for showing off every aspect of their ridiculous lives. (And, more recently, she’s been defending her husband, Kanye West, amid controversial statements of his own.)
Kardashian did something similar to actor Sylvester Stallone, although he didn’t receive nearly the same amount of public ridicule for lobbying the president.
Days before Kardashian’s visit, Trump granted a long-sought-after posthumous pardon for the first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson. The case came to Trump’s attention after Stallone personally called Trump to talk about it.
A celebrity using star power to bring attention to a serious issue isn’t unique to the Trump era. Neither are the debates over whether a famous Hollywood type is really the best person to talk about serious stuff such as, say, conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or whether such advocacy is also a self-serving promotional ploy.
So what’s new? The power that celebrity advocates seem to have. Stallone and Kardashian wielded their fame for what they believed were good causes, and the president did what they wanted.
“It’s funny because people will just hear something and not understand, ‘Well, what does Kim have to do with prison reform?’ ” Kardashian told Mic after meeting with the president. “Seven months ago I saw a story on Twitter and it was about a great-grandmother that just tugged at my heart. And it was just that simple connection.”
She continued: “If it takes me to go and talk to the highest person in power, the only person that can make this happen, which is President Trump, then I will definitely do that.”
Apparently, that is what it takes. Maybe next time, we should all take a celebrity visit to the White House more seriously, because serious things can happen as a result — for better or worse.