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Ah, so This Is Why They Don’t Let Jared Kushner Talk Much

Jared Kushner keeps his mouth tightly shut.

Despite his total lack of qualifications, Jared Kushner has been given a massive amount of responsibility in his father-in-law’s administration. As Donald Trump’s senior adviser, he’s been tasked with ending the opioid crisis, improving veterans’ affairs and information-technology operations, and brokering peace in the Middle East. But he doesn’t often speak publicly. When he does speak, it tends to serve as a reminder of why that’s for the best.

In a rare interview with Axios, Kushner was asked to address a number of issues, and none of them went particularly well. The entire interview aired Sunday night on HBO, but a number of utterly cringe-worthy clips have been released.

Let’s start with what’s probably the biggest cringe: Kushner trying to convince us that Donald Trump isn’t racist.

Reporter Jonathan Swan aked Kushner if he’s “ever seen [Trump] say or do anything that you would describe as racist or bigoted.” Kushner said “absolutely not” and that “you can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist.”

First of all, no one thinks Trump wasn’t racist before 2015. Of course he was. However, he’s also now in a position to be able to manifest that racism in ways that impact people on a much larger and more damaging scale than when he was a real estate magnate.

Kushner alleged that “when a lot of the Democrats call the President a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country, as if his horrendous immigration policies, his disregard for the needs of Puerto Ricans, his tacit support and dog whistling for white nationalists, and so much more isn’t “real” racism.

Swan wanted specifics. “Was birtherism racist?” he asked.

“Look, I wasn’t really involved in that,” Kushner replied.

“I know you weren’t,” said Swan. “Was it racist?”

Kushner: “Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.”

Swan: “I know you weren’t. Was it racist?”

Kushner: “Look, I know who the president is, and I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So again, I was not involved in that.”

What an exhausting back-and-forth. Good on Swan for not letting Kushner get away with his non-answers so easily but in the end, he still didn’t say anything at all. He refused to say that Trump’s conspiracy theory questioning Obama’s citizenship wasn’t racist, instead focusing on his own lack of involvement, as if that has anything to do with the question at hand.

He also wouldn’t say whether Trump’s Muslim ban was “religiously bigoted” or whether he wished Trump hadn’t campaigned on that idea. “I think he’s here today and I think he’s doing a lot of great things for the country and that’s what I’m proud of” was all Kushner was prepared to say on the matter of Trump’s bigotry.

Kushner also talked about Palestine and why the Palestinian people don’t trust him. When asked if he thought the people of Palestine could self-govern without Israeli interference, he said like a true colonialist: “I think that’s a very good question. I think that that’s one that we’ll have to see. The hope is is that they, over time, can become capable of governing.”

Trump has declared himself to be anti-abortion and he’s used misleading rhetoric to demonize later abortions. Kushner is apparently a blank slate on those issues.

Kushner said, “there’s a lot more things I agree with him on than disagree.”

Swan: So you agree with him on economics, on foreign policy. Where do you stand on abortion?

Kushner: Again, I was not the person who was elected.

Swan: So you agree with the president’s position?

Kushner: I’m here to enforce his positions. His position is the one that as a staffer in the White House, we’ll work to push.

Another thing he wouldn’t really talk about: his relationship with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who reportedly ordered the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

He also said that he attended a meeting designed to solicit campaign help from the Russian government because, as he describes it, he was just overwhelmed with emails. “I would get about 250 emails a day and so I–I literally saw ‘show up at 4,’” he said. “I showed up at 4.”

At best, that makes him sound incredibly bad at his job. At worst, it’s a clear lie, because it’s hard to feign ignorance about the subject of a meeting when, as Swan points out, the email about that meeting “had Russia in the subject line.”

One thing Kushner does admit (sort of) is that he owes his job to nepotism. “The president wouldn’t have been able to get me to work on his campaign had it not been for familial relations, and I guess because I’m related to him, people will make that accusation one way or the other,” he said. “I do think that I’ve got a good track record in all the things I’ve done of, uh, focusing on producing results.”

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that last part.

(via Axios on Twitter, image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.