CNN may still have serious “concerns” about Kellyanne Conway’s “credibility”—despite what Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in his daily briefing on Tuesday—but that did not stop Jake Tapper from hosting her for a 25 minute marathon of an interview on The Lead.
After some perfunctory questions about the country’s new education secretary Betsy DeVos and President Donald Trump’s controversial comments about Vladimir Putin over the weekend, Tapper arrived at his main topic: the president’s assertion that the “dishonest media” refuses to report on major terrorist attacks.
Tapper put on the screen footage of “dozens” of his CNN colleagues reporting on the attacks that a White House list claimed did not get covered by the press, including the two weeks he spent in Paris following the nightclub attack there. “CNN and other media organizations cover terrorism all the time,” he told Conway. “Saying we don't cover terrorism, that's just false.”
Conway conceded that CNN did “amazing coverage” of some of the attacks that had higher casualty rates, but added, “the other ones on the list not so much.” Avoiding specifics, she went on to say that President Trump was trying to make a broader point about not getting “inured” to terrorism.”
“You're spinning about the idea we don't want to be inured to that, that's a lovely spin, but that’s not what he was saying, Kellyanne,” Tapper replied. “He was saying the media does not cover these stories because we don't want to cover them, because we have some sort of agenda. That's what he was suggesting and it's offensive given the fact that CNN and other media organizations have reporters in danger right now in war zones covering ISIS. And I just don't understand how the president can make an attack like that.”
But it was Tapper’s next point that really seemed to stop Conway in her tracks.
“While we're on the subject of not addressing a terrorist attack, I want to ask you: in Quebec City last week, a white right-wing terrorist opened fire on a mosque. A mosque filled with men, women and children. Six people were killed. President Trump has not said or tweeted one public word about this. You want to talk about ignoring terrorism? Why hasn't the president offered his sympathy to our neighbors in the north?”
All Conway could do is insist that her boss is “sympathetic to any loss of life,” adding, “Put us on record as always being sad about this as a senseless loss of life.” When Conway said that Trump “doesn’t tweet about everything,” Tapper reminded her that he did tweet about an attack at the Louvre in Paris in which no one was killed. “I guess the question is, are these victims any less dead than the ones killed by Islamic radical terrorists?”
Later, Tapper told Conway, “What I'm getting at here is there is a larger campaign being waged by President Trump and by the White House to undermine the credibility of everybody in the news media except for certain supportive outlets.” As an example, he pointed to Trump saying the murder rate is at the highest level it's ever been in 47 years. “There is a reason that nobody in the media reports on that. It's not true. The murder rate is not at the highest rate it's been in 47 years.” Conway had nothing to say to refute that.
As Conway began to attack the media for making errors, Tapper said, “The problem is it is difficult to hear criticisms of the media for making mistakes—and certainly the media makes mistakes—but it is very difficult to hear criticism from a White House, which has such little regard day in, day out, for facts, for truth and who calls us fake news for stories that they don't like.”
On behalf of the Trump administration, Conway said, “We have a very high respect for the truth.” She also took responsibility for her now-infamous “Bowling Green massacre” flub.
Asked straight-up if she thinks CNN is “fake news,” as Trump has stated, Conway definitively said: “I don't think CNN is fake news.”
She added, however: “I think there are some reports everywhere, in print, on TV, on radio, in conversation that are not well researched and are sometimes based on falsehoods.”
But when she started listing mistakes by the press, Tapper came back at her hard. “How about the president's statements, Kellyanne, that are false, like the murder rate is the highest it's been in almost half a century? False!” he declared. “How about the fact that the media doesn't report on how about the fact that the terrorist attacks? False!”
“The media doesn't report it because it's a lie, because it's not true,” Tapper added. “And for the president to say that is—I can't even wrap my head around it.“