Josh Raffel’s experience with horror should serve him well as a PR man for Jared Kushner.
Back in early April, Kushner surprised Hollywood by hiring Raffel, the former public relations head at horror-film goldmine Blumhouse Pictures, the home of “Get Out,” to join his team at the White House.
The job became a little scarier on Friday, when the Washington Post reported that Kushner proposed in December to Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak that they set up a secret backchannel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.
Raffel’s job involves the Office of American Innovation, which Kushner has billed as largely separate from politics and non-partisan. But as the Russia investigation turns into an expanding sinkhole, can Raffel protect Kushner from the sunken place?
Here are five things to know:
1.) Raffel and Kushner’s ties go back to before his Blumhouse tenure
Prior to joining Blumhouse in fall 2015, Raffel worked for six years as an executive at the communications and consulting firm Hiltzik Strategies. While there, one of Raffel’s clients was Kushner’s real estate company, Kushner Enterprises. Raffel also represented entertainment figures and companies like Glenn Beck, Sony Pictures, and Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8.
His co-worker at Hiltzik, Hope Hicks, is also a part of Kushner’s inner circle. After handling publicity for Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, at Hiltzik, Hicks now serves as the White House’s director of strategic communications.
2.) Raffel worked at Blumhouse during a major boom
During his 18 months at Blumhouse, Raffel helped promote some of the studio’s biggest titles and newfound horror franchises, including this year’s surprise hits, “Split” and “Get Out.” One of those films, “The Purge: Election Year,” marketed itself with the tagline, “Keep America Great,” which closely resembled Trump’s “Make America Great.” Raffel was also tasked with announcing Blumhouse’s plan in October 2015 to develop a series about the late Fox News head Roger Ailes, based on the biography, “The Loudest Man In The Room.”
3.) Raffel was one of Kushner’s first hires for a new White House organization
The Trump Administration wants to make the White House more business friendly, and to that end, Kushner created a new organization in the West Wing called the Office of American Innovation. Featuring members like Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn and former WME-IMG CFO Chris Liddell, Kushner described OAI’s goal in a White House press statement as “combining internal resources with the private sector’s innovation and creativity, enabling the Federal Government to better serve Americans.” Kushner has promised that the OAI will remain nonpartisan, and to that end has called in Silicon Valley magnates like Apple’s Tim Cook and Tesla’s Elon Musk to get involved.
4.) Raffel has already been called on for major communications jobs
During Trump’s recent round of foreign visits, his first as president, the White House called in a phalanx of media reps to travel with him. Raffel was among that group, serving as a communications adviser alongside Hicks, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton, and Melania Trump’s communications’ director, Stephanie Grisham.
5.) Some in the White House see Raffel’s hiring as part of the ongoing power struggle in Trump’s White House
Since Trump took office, stories in the media have surfaced of an ongoing struggle between Trump’s closest advisers. Kushner has been a major player in that struggle, contending with senior adviser Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus over the direction the White House is taking. According to a report from the New York Times, West Wing insiders say that Raffel was a part of the process.