Give Me A Break, Kellyanne Conway
After a shocking ethical breach, Trump’s counselor tried to paint herself as the victim of sexism. But that’s not going to work this time.
“All I can say to America’s women is,” Conway simpered, “at some point in our life you ought to have a boss who treated you the way that the president of the United States treated me today.”
Give me a break.
Kellyanne Conway’s unforced error had nothing to do with her being a woman, and everything to do with her being somebody who has, for the last three weeks, been astoundingly bad at her job. Conway sure seems eager to brand herself a victim of sexism in an attempt to garner sympathy. It won’t work this time.
Since signing on to help right the then-rickety Trump campaign, Conway has had a famously fraught relationship with the truth. She spent the presidential campaign slipping out from beneath the thumbs of cable hosts eager to pin her down bobbing and weaving like the Muhammad Ali of bullshit. Nothing could stop her, it seemed. Whether or not she was a woman, she was damn good at her job.
But after inauguration day and under the microscope of White House press coverage, she lost her magic touch. She flailed in the nonsense of “alternative facts” in a disastrous interview with Chuck Todd during her first round of Sunday show interviews as a professional denizen of the White House. Not long thereafter, she left Fox News’ Chris Wallace aghast in a long, rambling answer that was Palinesque in its inscrutability. Then, Kellyanne introduced America to the hidden tragedy of the under-reporting of the Bowling Green Massacre, an attack that never actually happened. She tried to apologize for that incident, calling it an “honest mistake.” But that, too, turned out to be an alternative fact, since Conway had been citing the Bowling Green Massacre as justification for her boss’s Muslim ban in multiple interviews with multiple media outlets. She got into a strange fight with CNN over whether or not they wanted to book her for a show, and was caught in yet another easily disprovable lie. It seems she was too unreliable a narrator, even for the Trump White House.
To quote Mitch McConnell: Nevertheless, she persisted.
This week, Conway threw the news cycle, already dizzy with nonsense, into even more of a cacophony when she urged viewers of Fox & Friends to purchase items from Ivanka Trump’s eponymous clothing line. Retail giant Nordstrom was discontinuing the line, citing poor sales as the reason for severing the relationship with the First Daughter.
“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would say,” the counselor to the President told the morning TV hosts, standing before the White House briefing room podium. “It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it.”
Conway continued her promotion of the mostly-basic line of non-offensive separates that look pretty much like anything for sale at Express at any point over the last 5-8 years. “I fully—I’m going to just, I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody; you can find it online.”
This is what political scientists would call “bad.” Ivanka had promised to divest from the family business, so unless “Ivanka’s stuff” meant Ivanka’s upcoming and henceforth unannounced garage sale, Conway acting as though she still had a business in the clothing line was troubling to ethical watchdogs. Secondly, rules governing the behavior of White House employees, elected or appointed, prohibit the use of their positions to hawk products or brands. There’s no “Q,” “V,” or “C” in “USA.” It’s pretty cut and dry.
(Besides, it’s tough to believe that Conway, who wore a $3,600 Gucci coat to the inauguration three weeks ago, would mess around with cheaply-made Baby’s First Job Interview attire with a $50-$200 per-piece price point. But I digress.)
For her trespass, the GOP and Democratic chairs of the House Oversight Committee penned a letter to the White House demanding an explanation of what in the world was going on. White House press secretary Sean Spicer sternly told reporters that afternoon that Conway had been “counseled.”
Apparently, actual repercussions for Conway involved spending lots of time with President Trump on Thursday afternoon, and then gushing about it to Fox, somehow, bizarrely, tying her womanhood to her malpractice.
How on earth is this scenario something to which American women should aspire?
How is having a boss that enables one’s worst qualities an inspirational story of female empowerment? Getting away with a serious ethical breach isn’t a rah-rah you-go-girl victory. It would be like getting away with robbing a bank and then yelling “This is a victory for women everywhere!” as you jump into your getaway car. Acting unethically doesn’t have a gender. It’s objectively bad.
Kellyanne Conway should and does know better. She built a powerhouse career being an expert on women. As a pollster, she sought to dissect the motivations behind their votes. As the first woman to head a successful presidential campaign, she touted breaking a glass ceiling of her own—no small feat, especially given what she had to work with. The only reason somebody with her body of knowledge would try to pull a fast one like that on America’s women is if she truly believed that America’s women were dumb enough to believe her.
Are you tough, Kellyanne? Are you a straight-shooting contributor who owns her mistakes? Or are you a coward throwing punches and then hiding behind your boss and your womanhood? You don’t get to be both.