Will The Real Jared Kushner Please Stand Up
In his new memoir, a staggeringly un-self-aware Kushner reveals his true self—perhaps more than he meant to
Jared Kushner in the Cabinet Room of the White House on August 1, 2018. (Photo by Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images)
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I have known Jared Kushner (not well) for quite some time. The man I first met in New York in the early 2000s was a cherubic-looking, vulnerable young man in his early 20s, openly hurting about the fact his father, whom he loved and revered, was in jail for a horrible, lurid crime involving a sex tape and blackmail of a family member. One couldn’t help but feel for this grieving son. Then when Kushner and Ivanka Trump temporarily split up, largely due to religious differences, he was also miserable, torn between religion and his soulmate. Again, one couldn’t help but feel for him.
Fast forward to 2016 and Kushner’s stint on Trump’s campaign as his son-in-law. When I sat down with him for the first time in many years while reporting a piece on him and his brother for Esquire, I saw a person entirely changed. The vulnerability was gone. This was a person who was not just condescending to journalists, but clueless about their motivation. (“Why are these idiots taking these low-paying jobs when they could work in commercial real estate and make a ton of money?” I was told he said.) He had become someone who harbored grudges and delusions. (“I’m a good guy because I haven’t printed [smut] about a real estate rival,” he told me about a piece he said he’d held the newspaper he’d acquired—the Observer—back from running.) He had become someone who had an extraordinarily exaggerated sense of self-worth. (I reported that he yelled at a senior executive of another firm that he was “the stupidest person I’ve ever met in this business”—in public.) He was someone who thought all problems could be massaged by PR. After all, he owned a newspaper.
And he was a bully. Or at least he tried to be. When my Esquire article was published, he phoned his friend David Lauren, head of Ralph Lauren, and told both my editor and the head of the company that he had the power to pull Ralph Lauren’s advertising from Hearst. (In fact, the advertising stayed put.)
So what happens when you give someone so brimful of over-confidence and un-self-awareness a senior job in a White House run by Donald Trump?
Well, interestingly, in his new book, Kushner himself can’t help but tell us. He does it by contradicting himself in what he says just pages apart. And he does it by omission, taunting his enemies, gossiping, and issuing self-justifying opinions that don’t jar with the memories of multiple people around him—or even with public record.
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