Does Kim Kardashian Have a Responsibility to Speak Up About Kanye West’s Controversial Comments?
Kim Kardashian can handle controversy.
She's been through more than her fair share of scandalous events — from a sex tape to that time she defended a beauty vlogger and his racist comments — and she always bounces back. But what happens when the controversy isn't actually her own?
We're talking, of course, about her husband Kanye West and his recent pro-Trump comments on social media and SNL. His support is nothing new, as he first stepped out in Trump's Make America Great Again cap in 2017, however his specific words on slavery are ruffling feathers, to say the least. First he referred to the institution as a "choice," and over the weekend he tweeted about abolishing the 13th amendment. (In case you failed history class, the 13th amendment is the one that made slavery unconstitutional.)
In what seemed like an attempt clarify his words, he later tweeted, "the 13th Amendment is slavery in disguise meaning it never ended." (The Washington Post's Meagan Flynn as well as some Twitter supporters inferred that Kanye was referring to a specific exception clause in the amendment that allows for slavery "as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," which has been a point of contention among prisoners.) But regardless of intentions, outrage had already struck like a tsunami — with Chris Evans and Lana del Rey, among other A-listers, leading the charge.
Though she hasn't spoken publicly or on social media about Kanye's rants over the weekend, various outlets report that Kardashian — who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and has expressed fairly progressive opinions on matters like prison reform — was "embarrassed" but not surprised by the mess. There's no way to be sure, but "embarrassed" would suggest at least some friction between her own views and her husband's, right?
Say that's true, what should she do now? If she feels differently than Kanye, should she stand up in opposition? Or, as his partner, does she feel an obligation to support him, "for better or worse"?
Some have speculated that her silence is an attempt to help the story die faster. Her decision to not publicly refute his statements (but not publicly support them, either) seems to convey that she values her family, and her relationship with her husband, above her personal politics.
Psychotherapist Ami Kaplan also told Bravo that "remaining silent is very often the least burdensome choice emotionally for their partners," so this may also be Kardashian's way of protecting herself, too. Of course, a private discussion is probably the first course of action — and it sounds like the couple has had several of those.
West spells out as much in his song, "Wouldn't Leave," which alludes to private phone calls (which we assume won't air on KUWTK, but never say never). As the title suggests, the song is about the fact that despite Kardashian's anger, she, well, wouldn't leave him. “I said, ‘Slavery a choice,’ they said, ‘How, ‘Ye?’ ... My wife callin’, screamin’, say ‘We ’bout to lose it all’/Had to calm her down ’cause she couldn’t breathe/Told her she could leave me now, but she wouldn’t leave.”
In the midst of the Kanye drama, Kardashian posted this tweet, reinforcing her affection in a very pointed, very public manner:
Earlier this year, when Kanye reentered the spotlight following a brief hospitalization, Kim took to Twitter to defend not the content of his controversial opinions, but his right to hold them. "Kanye will never run in the race of popular opinion and we know that and that's why I love him and respect him," she wrote.
In a follow-up, she added that she does, in fact, have a different opinion about Trump. "Most people (including myself) have very different feelings & opinions about [Trump]. But this is HIS opinion. I believe in people being able to have their own opinions, even if really different from mine."
But the likes of John Legend, as well as Van Lathan — the producer who stood up to Kanye West in the TMZ news room following his "choice" comments — would argue that this is not a matter of having a different opinion on a trivial policy matter. "Your words and actions have consequences," Legend reminded West in a text that Kanye later tweeted. And it's true, not only do his followers wait with bated breath for his next outrage, but the media, too, hangs on his every word. And if he is not articulating his thoughts clearly and concisely (a prime example would be the aforementioned 13th amendment tweet, which may have, in fact, been in support of a position that many liberals would agree with), then it could easily be misconstrued, fueling the burgeoning neo-Nazi hate groups.
From a PR perspective, however, Kardashian's tweet is a smart move — this according to Stacy Jones, CEO of branding agency Hollywood Branded. "By posting this, she created some distance from Kanye and showcased to her fan base that she was supporting her husband, while disagreeing — at least slightly — with his viewpoints," she tells InStyle.
At the end of the day, however, it comes down to a moral choice for Kim. Her image, ergo, her fortune, is pretty much untouchable. "[Kim and Kanye] are both at an interesting point in time, in a very split political climate, where even if half of both of their fan bases disagrees with his opinions, the other half may step forward and increase their purchasing to show their support," notes Jones. "As those more liberally minded turn away, the doors open to having a new floodgates of potential conservative minded purchasers occurs."
Should Kim use her platform in an attempt to refute — or even clarify — her husband's remarks, it wouldn't be the first time she took a political stand. After all, when the Wall Street Journal ran an ad from a group that down played the Armenian Genocide, she sprang to action, comparing Turkish group who paid for the ad to Holocaust deniers — the logic being that the consequences are dangerous given the wide reach and influence of the paper. (Sound familiar?) She's also spoken up against gun violence, and, of course, for prison reform.
Whether she feels as compelled to speak about his latest controversies is another question.
From the looks of her social media comments, the matter doesn't appear to have affected her fans' devotion to their kween. For now, looks like she's dodged another controversy unscathed.