Hope Hicks, 31, was trending on Twitter Thursday morning after online users starting bashing President Donald Trump, saying he fired campaign manager Brad Parscale after learning he was secretly dating the former White House communications director.
On Wednesday, the president announced he was replacing Parscale as his 2020 campaign manager with longtime political aide Bill Stepien, a move that appeared to stem from Trump’s current polling numbers, which show him falling far behind opponent Joe Biden.
Hicks, who previously resigned from her position in Trump’s administration in March 2018 after admitting to Congress she sometimes told “white lies” for the president, returned to the White House in February 2020 as counselor to the president, the New York Times reported. She has been rumored to be dating Jim Donovan since March. Donovan, director of Goldman Sachs, also serves as an advisor to Trump.
So, how did the rumors start swirling online that Hicks was now “canoodling” and “more than friends” with the now-ousted Parscale? The viral rumor was initiated by a joke from Rick Wilson, the founder of Project Lincoln, a group of anti-Trump Republicans.
On July 15, Wilson tweeted, “BLIND ITEM: What Trump campaign official has hired a private detective and an oppo firm to target at least one of their rivals?” to which an online user responded, “Parscale and Hicks spotted canoodling at Comet Pizza. On-lookers witnessed a ‘more than friends’ vibe.”
Parscale and Hicks spotted canoodling at Comet Pizza. On-lookers witnessed a "more than friends" vibe.
— YS (@NYinLA2121) July 15, 2020
Wilson, who has 1.1 million followers on Twitter, then retweeted the exchange and wrote, “Ooooof that would make TWO other Trump world people VERY angry. Only in DC, kids. Only in DC.”
Ooooof that would make TWO other Trump world people VERY angry.
Only in DC, kids. Only in DC. https://t.co/067XFoO48t
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) July 15, 2020
Afterward, the joke went viral online, with thousands of users online wondering if there was any truth to the story. Others focused their disparaging remarks toward Hicks. One person joked, “Take one for the team, Hope Hicks: Start dating Bill Barr.”
Trump demoted Parscale when he found he was dating Hope Hicks, same thing that happened with Lewandowski and Rob Porter. It wasn't their sheer incompetence that got them canned, it was their virility, Trump was jealous. @realDonaldTrump
— NoelCaslerComedy (@CaslerNoel) July 16, 2020
— Jaime Primak (@JaimePrimak) July 16, 2020
No it was Hope Hicks. EVERY man she has been with has gotten fired:
Brad Parscale https://t.co/CqBuZnNOq2
— Health4AllAmerica (@Health4AllAmer) July 16, 2020
Hope Hicks has dated Corey Lewandowski, abuser Rob Porter and now Brad Parscale. She has the same terrible taste in men that she does in employers — Ivanka, Trump, Fox News and now Trump again.
— Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) July 16, 2020
Wasn’t he also just spotted canoodling with Hope Hicks??
Wonder if that was the last straw? https://t.co/FoZGLdfUcy
— Dara Kass, MD (@darakass) July 16, 2020
There is currently nothing but unsubstantiated rumor that Hicks was ever involved with Parscale or that it had anything to do with him being fired.
Parscale & Hicks ‘Canoodling’ at Comet Pizza Was a Tip That This Was Meant to Be a Joke
The fact that Hicks and Parscale were allegedly seen “canoodling” at Comet Pizza, the D.C. restaurant made famous by QAnon’s Pizzagate conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton, seemed to confirm that this comment on their affair was meant to be a joke.
Parscale, who’s worked for the Trump organization since 2011, is married to wife Candace Blount. He replaced Corey Lewandowski as Trump’s campaign manager in 2016.
On July 15, Trump released the following message on Facebook to announce Parscale’s demotion:
I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the role of Trump Campaign Manager. Brad Parscale, who has been with me for a very long time and has led our tremendous digital and data strategies, will remain in that role, while being a Senior Advisor to the campaign. Both were heavily involved in our historic 2016 win, and I look forward to having a big and very important second win together. This one should be a lot easier as our poll numbers are rising fast, the economy is getting better, vaccines and therapeutics will soon be on the way, and Americans want safe streets and communities!
Parscale’s Job Seemed to Be in Flux Following the Unexpectedly Low Attendance Numbers at Trump’s Tulsa Rally
— Dr. Anthony Mask-Wearing Fauci (@notdrfauci) June 21, 2020
Even amid coronavirus, Trump predicted that 1 million people would be trying to attend his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20, and because the BOK Center could only seat 19,000 people, the campaign set up an outdoor stage to appease the expected overflow of attendees.
However, on June 20, the arena inside was barely filled, and Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother from Fort Dodge, Iowa, may have had something to do with those overinflated numbers and empty seats. Laupp made a Tik Tok video to encourage users to go to Trump’s website, register to attend the event — and then not show up. At the time, Laupp only had about 1,000 followers on the social media app, but the video went viral overnight.
The rumor is that KPop fans and TikTokers reserved a lot of tickets with no intention of going, to mess up the attendance expectations and the data-gathering operation. If you are one of those people/have any sense of the size of that effort I want to hear from you! https://t.co/BTFNDDcnu0
— Sarah Frier (@sarahfrier) June 21, 2020
Laupp posted the video with the caption, “Did you know you can make sure there are empty seats at Trump’s rally? #BLM.” The video has been viewed over 700,000 times. In her Tik Tok video, she states, “All of those of us that want to see this 19,000 seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now and leave him standing alone there on the stage.”
At first, Trump’s campaign denied TikTok users had anything to do with the Tulsa rally’s attendance numbers. Parscale, who boasted on Twitter that nearly 800,000 people signed up for tickets said in a statement, “Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work.”
However, the New York Times was told by anonymous members of Trump’s campaign “that many people who had signed up to attend the event were not supporters but online tricksters. One campaign adviser claimed that ‘troll data’ was still useful, claiming it would help the campaign avoid the same pitfall in the future.”