If you have never heard of Blumhouse Productions, chances are you've still seen their films. The Hollywood production company has created the horror films Paranormal Activity, The Purge, and this year's critically claimed Get Out, which earned the company glowing profiles. "Will Get Out make Blumhouse the Pixar of horror filmmakers?" askedVariety's senior film and media editor Brent Lang.
Now, President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has hired Blumhouse's PR chief Josh Raffel to join the White House Office of American Innovation. Raffel told the Hollywood Reporter that he would run communications, but declined to give further details. The news follows the president announcing his plans to use the catchphrase of The Purge: Election Year as his 2020 campaign slogan: "Keep America Great."
By the looks of it, Kushner could use some help from the horror spin doctor who earned positive headlines for Blumhouse. Since he joined the White House, politicos have questioned if Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump's roles violate ethical rules. As Jennifer Rubin pointed out in the Washington Post, federal law forbids the president from appointing his children or their spouses and both Kushner and his wife have retained ownership of their private companies, although they have ceased running them on a day-to-day basis.
Raffel has done business with Kushner before. He's only worked as Blumhouse's chief public relations office since 2015, and Variety reports that he represented Kushner's real estate business, Kushner Enterprises, during his tenure at Hiltzik Strategies. Matthew Hiltzik's PR agency came under media scrutiny last year, when then-Republican nominee Trump chose former Hiltzik employee Hope Hicks as his press secretary. As a Hiltzik employee, Hicks helped manage Ivanka's publicity, and according to an extensive GQ profile, an impressed Trump took her from Hiltzik. "I wouldn't say [Matthew Hiltzik] was thrilled," the now president told the magazine. "But, you know, we give him a lot of business."
Raffel departs Blumhouse for a real life American horror show during the company's much buzzed about expansion into more prestigious work. The company received a 2014 Oscar Best Picture nominee for their rare non-horror flick, Whiplash, and won Emmys for producing The Jinx and The Normal Heart. In October 2015, Raffel announced the company's collaboration with Universal on branded content for major brands. But one of their splashiest projects in development may provoke ire in President Trump's circles. Last October, the Hollywood Reporter broke that Blumhouse would be developing a series about the life of Roger Ailes based on Gabriel Sherman's controversial biography The Loudest Man in the Room. CNN reported that Ailes produced a 400-page "dossier" to attack Sherman. (Ailes has long denied all of Sherman's accusations.)
While working with Kushner, Raffel will miss out on any backlash from the Sherman project, but he'll likely have enough to spin in the Trump White House Office of American Innovation.