Admired club's invite to Kardashian turns typically divisive

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Kim Kardashian's upcoming appearance as a guest of one of San Francisco's most august institutions has caused a typical "love her/hate her" stir.

The reality TV star is scheduled to speak and sign copies of her new coffee table book "Selfish" during a Tuesday night event hosted by the Commonwealth Club of California, which bills itself as the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum.

During the club's 112-year history, world leaders and intellectuals such as President Ronald Reagan, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cornel West have addressed its members. Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined the principles that would form the basis for his "New Deal" during a Commonwealth Club speech in 1932.

Kardashian's 45-minute conversation with LaDoris Cordell, a retired state judge, is being presented by a division of the club called INFORUM that was launched in 2002 to appeal to younger and hipper audiences. Topics are expected to include the pregnant 34-year-old's famous family, "the business of millennial culture" and "the objectification of women in media," according to INFORUM's description of the event that also is scheduled to include 15 minutes of audience questions.

INFORUM director Caroline Moriarty Sacks said Kardashian was deemed a worthy guest based on "what she is doing in terms of business and social media and the way she makes us question our understanding of modern feminism, for better or for worse."

"We all need to think a little more deeply about her when she is booked by the Commonwealth Club, and that means we are doing our job," Sacks said.

Since the event was announced earlier this month, the program's Facebook page has lit up with comments opposing and supporting her selection, with some posters saying they would go so far as to cancel their club memberships.

"THIS IS REVOLTING!! Thought the Commonwealth Club stood for intelligent conversation, not this disgusting bit of trash," reads one comment.

"What could she possibly have to say about the objectification Of women in media?!! She perpetuates the problem," wrote another commenter.

The flap is reminiscent of the flack National Public Radio received earlier this month after Kardashian appeared on its "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" quiz show. NPR received hundreds of complaints and some listeners threatened to stop donating to the nonprofit broadcaster.

In a surprising turn for a public figure who made a name sharing her life on television and will be promoting a coffee table of "selfies," Kardashian has barred photographers and video journalists from covering Tuesday's event, the club said. Kardashian publicist Ina Treciokas confirmed that no photography or cameras will be allowed at the 45-minute onstage discussion with Cordell.

Sacks said that as of Monday night, about 200 tickets remained for the event at San Francisco's Castro Theatre, which seats 1,400. INFORUM events usually draw about 250 people, although more popular speakers have drawn audiences of over 700.

"I think it's a good thing that people have opinions and are so fired up about the right conversations we should be having. I am glad they care so much," she said.

Michael Oren: the former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, also will be speaking in San Francisco on Tuesday night during a separate Commonwealth Club event.