“My friends are leaving California!” Caitlyn Jenner cried, during an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity. “The guy across... was packing up his hanger and I said, ‘where are you going?’ He said, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it here anymore, I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’ I don’t want to leave, okay? Either I stay and fight, or I get out of here.”
While the exodus of her affluent, private jet-setting cohort wasn’t the down-home story most politicians use to connect with voters, the anecdote came naturally to 71-year-old Jenner, who is running for governor of California. If Jenner’s goal was to come across as a wealthy Californian with a limited grasp on the issues impacting the residents of the state she hopes to lead, she succeeded with flying colors. But perhaps Jenner is taking a page out of the Trump playbook: flaunt your affluence, business savvy, and slick lingo and hope for the best.
On Wednesday, Jenner sat down with Hannity and a small audience of tacit supporters to talk about the big issues concerning Californians: economic recovery post-covid, homelessness, wildfires, and immigration. This was accomplished, to an extent: Jenner often became sidetracked and rambled, whether about her family’s history of courageous military service or the kindness of an immigrant she spoke with recently. She even asked that Hannity give her 90-something-year-old mother an early birthday shoutout, which Hannity obliged. He was somewhat less obliging, however, of Jenner’s tendency to skirt around the kind of issues that he and his right-wing viewership care about, like undocumented immigrants, sanctuary cities, and border security.
When sanctuary status came up, for example, it was as if Jenner had never heard the phrase before.
HANNITY: Now, let’s get to specifics.
JENNER: Uh oh.
HANNITY: No, no uh oh.
JENNER: Let’s go, hit me with it.
HANNITY: Okay, California is a sanctuary state, you have sanctuary cities. Would you eliminate sanctuary status for the state of California?
JENNER: Uh... [laughs]... I would keep it a sanctuary state for small businesses. [laughs].
JENNER: Meaning, I want small businesses to come into this state! I want people to create wealth here. I want to employ people, yeah, but as far as immigration, no. I am not on that. We need to spend some money to have a fair and equitable immigration system.
We need to curb “illegal immigration,” she said, but also be compassionate to those who are already here. There are some people who need to be “sent back,” Jenner continued, but she’s also met “some of the greatest immigrants.” Aside from her apparent support for Trump’s wall, her position on immigration could fit into a variety of political ideologies. The conversation quickly pivoted to a topic Jenner is much more comfortable with: Lambasting California Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a potential recall election.
She accused Newsom of using covid-19 to as a political tool, destroying countless businesses in the process. But the most concrete example she could give of Newsom’s mismanagement of covid was that Disneyland reopened last week while Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida reopened in July. While Newsom’s at times chaotic approach to statewide lockdowns and school closures have prompted valid frustration from both Republicans and Democrats alike, Jenner’s description of the state of small businesses in California under Newsom’s administration is exaggerated. Jenner repeatedly said that neither restaurants nor hair salons have been able to re-open. But restaurants are currently operating a 50 percent capacity indoors for most of California, and takeout and outdoor dining are allowed if possible. Meanwhile, hair salons are open with modifications, meaning that hairstylists and customers must be masked. Lamenting, in May 2021, that salons and restaurants are closed, when people have been going to hair salons and dining at restaurants for months—even at the virus’s peak—is misleading.
But this is coming from a woman who wasn’t even able to succinctly describe what she meant in her new campaign ad when she called herself a “compassionate disrupter.”
“I think I’m more of a thoughtful disruptor,” she amended, before backtracking and landing on a description of “compassionate disrupter” that can be summed up as a new way of saying fiscally conservative but socially progressive.
We didn’t need a reminder on the fiscal conservative bit, however: Jenner, a Republican, didn’t hold back when she condemned California’s high taxes and the state’s alleged business-unfriendly environment, despite being the largest economy in the country and the fifth largest in the world. The fact that Jenner staged these complaints in her very own airplane hanger was amusing to say the least. Her out-of-touch-rich-people-blinders were on display even more when she expressed confusion over a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail project that would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Why are we doing that? I can get on a plane at LAX and I’ll be in San Francisco in 50 minutes,” Jenner said, suggesting that desalinization projects for the drought-prone state would be a better use of money. She missed the point: Both water access and air quality are important environmental issues. Reducing the use of airplane fuel to carry many more people across the state at one time is a boon all around. Besides, not everyone can just hop on a plane whenever they want like a Jenner can.
If Jenner is the Republicans’ best shot at winning back the state of California, they have an uphill battle to climb. It was almost painful watching an exasperated Hannity try to wrench a strong sound clip out of her worthy of making the rounds through the right-wing corners of the internet. He gave her an opening to elaborate on her support of a ban on transgender children in school sports, and instead she emphasized that it’s a complicated issue and that she wants to be a role-model for transgender people, despite holding her harmful and unsupported position that transgender girls have an unfair advantage on the field. Hannity pressed her on immigration, and she seemed to catch her footing accidentally, visibly brightening like a lightbulb went off in her head when the sentence “we have to modernize [immigration]” slipped out of her mouth. And even then, Hannity at one point had to correct Jenner when she accidentally said that she’s in favor of illegal immigration.
“I’m pro-illegal immigration, we really have to—”
“You’re pro legal immigration,” Hannity corrected
“You’re pro-legal immigration.”
“Pro-legal immigration, yes, Sorry, did I miss the legal part?”
“Thanks for catching me. You’ve got my back, Sean.”
The only edifying information that came out of this interview is that of the entire Kardashian-Jenner clan, Kim might actually be the smartest one of the lot.