Even after listening to the audio of distraught children, Kellyanne Conway would not concede that President Donald Trump’s administration had any responsibility for separating immigrant families.
At the beginning of a 20-minute interview with the president’s counselor, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo played the disturbing audio released today by ProPublica of immigrant children in a detention center crying and begging to see their parents.
Though she expressed sympathy for the immigrants, Conway did not concede that the policy was wrong or harmful. Instead, she claimed that many immigrant children coming across the border were accompanied by people who were human traffickers or not their real parents.
“I’m a mother, I’m a Catholic, I’m a person with a conscience,” she said. “I agree with everyone, including the president, the first lady and everyone who has said that they don't want children to be separated from their parents unduly.”
She suggested that some immigrant women were being trafficked over the border, adding: “You can play all the audiotape and videotape you want—you show me what happened to each and every one of those girls.”
As she has done in previous interviews with Cuomo, a frequent verbal sparring partner, Conway insisted that media outlets were mischaracterizing Trump’s policies and opinions.
Throughout the interview, Cuomo argued that the administration’s decision to separate children from their parents was inhumane. Conway pivoted, equivocated, and refused to acknowledge that Trump ultimately had the authority to halt the separation of families.
Confronted by then-secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly’s suggestion in 2017 that the administration was considering separating families as a way to dissuade undocumented immigrants from arriving in America, Conway argued that the past opinion of Trump’s now chief of staff was irrelevant.
“That was over a year ago, and the homeland security director did not say that today,” Conway said.
When Cuomo challenged the idea Trump and members have administration have pushed that many immigrants coming across the southern border are gang members, Conway responded by listing people killed in the U.S. by undocumented immigrants living here.
“They don’t pose the kind of criminal threat that you say—you won’t go after all the employers that draw them into this country,” the CNN anchor said. “No, no, no, those are all big donors and Republicans.”
“Donors—how dare you try to say this is about donors?” Conway replied.
“There’s no spin,” she said. “You’re spinning it because you won’t admit that immigration in this country and border security has been a vexing problem for many years.”