Kellyanne Conway, counselor/advisor to President Trump and purveyor of “alternative facts,” has repeatedly proven that when invited on cable and network news shows, she will spew fiction — in the form of misleading statements, false accusations and flat-out lies — to defend the president at all costs.
So why do networks like CNN continue to give her such a big platform? Unfortunately, it appears for confrontation, clicks and ratings.
Conway’s latest bumbling performance came Sunday morning on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. At the end of the 15-minute segment, host Dana Bash asked Conway about her husband’s recent string of tweets that have been critical of the president.
Conway and Bash got into about a five-minute back-and-forth over the appropriateness of the question, an exchange in which Conway ridiculously tried to play the role of victim of a sexist double-standard.
One specific posting Bash asked about was George Conway’s retweet of a tweet by a CNN reporter last month taking the president to task for undermining aides.
“This is why officials are so hesitant to speak for Trump. He says one thing, then does the opposite,” the reporter wrote. “He says he’s happy with (former national security advisor H.R.) McMaster, they defend him, then he fires him a week later. He says he’ll sign the (budget) bill, they publicly say as much, then he tweets he’s considering a veto.”
“So true. It’s absurd.” George Conway wrote in his re-tweet. “Which is why people are banging down the doors to be his (communications) director.”
The tweet was one of over 100 the last couple of months that have been directed against the president — the man his wife works for — and his actions.
Another one pushed back against the president’s assertion after the FBI raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office that “Attorney-client privilege is dead!”
“No, there is a crime fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege, as there has been for centuries,” George Conway wrote in response to the president’s tweet.
According to reports, George has deleted many of his tweets, but he hasn’t stopped directly or indirectly criticizing his wife’s boss.
Sunday morning, he retweeted a photo of former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, their wives and First Lady Melania Trump at Barbara Bush’s memorial service with the original tweeter’s message: “Each president in this photo did things I disagreed with politically. Quite a lot, in fact, for most of them. And yet I never doubted that every single one of them acted based on core values, including love of country — not, primarily, love of self.” For the record, Kellyanne, in her “State of the Union” appearance, pushed back against the notion that Trump is all about himself while speaking of his affinity for Cohen.
Certainly, George and Kellyanne Conway are allowed to have differing political opinions, support different candidates and publicly voice their opinions about them.
While not necessary for that particular interview, Bash’s question was fair-game. It’s hard to believe that with a president and whole culture so tied to social media, she hasn’t been asked about her husband’s tweets by the president and others in the administration.
If I posted critical things on Twitter and Facebook about the law firm my wife works for, or she posted critical things on Twitter and Facebook about MainStreet Newspapers, we both would probably take a little heat from our bosses. And we are employed with private companies, not the White House.
The problem, though, is the result of Bash’s question was predictable: Another outburst from Conway and another opportunity to weave the false, “It’s us against the media, and the media is evil” narrative.
Bash, who I respect, but whose claim the question was meant in a light-hearted way came off as disingenuous, should have recognized this. But maybe she and/or the show and network producers didn’t care.
It’s telling that Sunday afternoon, at the top of the CNN website, sat the video clip of the interview with the headline, “Kellyanne Conway to Dana Bash: OK, you went there.” Missing was more prominent placement of necessary rebuttals to erroneous statements she continues to spout.
And this is the problem with much of cable news today: They have become too much about entertainment, ratings and clicks, not enough about journalism for the people who won’t subscribe to the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, etc.
Fox News has become very effective at playing to its base of older, conservative whites with its “Fox and Friends” morning show, tailor-made for the president’s ego, and its primetime lineup — which consists of Tucker Carlson and his anti-immigration populist rhetoric, Sean Hannity, who is now nothing more than a state-media shill, and Laura Ingraham, who has an apparent problem with athletes expressing opinions on social issues.
CNN will push back against the exaggerations, misleading statements and falsehoods that pour out on a regular basis from this administration, but they have also let the president’s “fake news” label on them become too personal. And you probably won’t have to watch CNN more than about 15 minutes before you encounter a shouting match. Jeffrey Lord and Van Jones got pretty good at them during the presidential campaign and the first few months of Trump’s presidency before the network cut ties with Lord.
On both networks, real journalism has taken a backseat. On one network, you get “birther-like coverage” on a range of issues, as conservative commentator Bill Kristol has described it. On the other one, you get a competition of who can talk the loudest and over the most people.
One might be less bad, but neither is helpful.
Scott Thompson is editor of the Barrow News-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.