“If I threaten someone, you’ll know it,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters Friday morning in a bizarre hours-long effort to discredit an audio recording that seemingly showed her threatening to use West Wing resources to investigate the personal life of a reporter a day earlier.
“I never threatened anyone,” Conway told a gaggle of journalists at the White House. “Don’t use those words. I didn’t threaten. It’s not a threat. I never threatened her.”
On Thursday, the Washington Examiner released audio footage of the White House counselor repeatedly asking a reporter why she felt it was appropriate to cover her husband, conservative lawyer George Conway, in a story about her possible promotion to White House chief of staff. Caitlin Yilek’s piece characterized Conway as being “in the middle” of the highly publicized back and forths between her husband and President Donald Trump, who snipe at one another on Twitter and on TV and in magazines.
In a phone call after Yilek’s story published, Conway can be heard asking the reporter why she used the phrase “in the middle” if she doesn’t have a “psychology degree.”
“Listen, if you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here,” Conway told Yilek near the end of the exchange. “If it has nothing to do with my job, which it doesn’t, that’s obvious, then we’re either going to expect you to cover everybody’s personal life or we’re going to start covering them over here.”
In an appearance on Fox News early Friday morning, Conway told America’s Newsroom anchor Sandra Smith that she did not bully or threaten Yilek, who she claimed “got 15 minutes of fame” and plenty of “kicks and clicks” off the recording.
“Do you regret anything about the way you handled it?” Smith asked. “They released the transcript of the phone call. There are multiple occasions she asked to put you on the phone with her editor and you refused.”
Conway responded, “It wasn’t important to me.”
Then she addressed the meat of the issue: her apparent anger over Yilek including her husband in an article about her potential White House promotion.
“George and I agree on many big things,” said Conway. “We disagree on many big things. Exactly none of that affects my job here, and exactly none of that is anybody’s business.”
“I think people constantly covering that is lazy and it doesn’t add to the conversation,” she added.
But hours later at the White House on Friday, a reporter pressed Conway to answer whether her conversation was appropriate: “What does that mean, ‘Cover her personal life?’”
“I think it’s very obvious,” Conway responded.
“It seems obvious as a threat, to dig into her personal life,” the reporter replied.
Conway barbed back: “Dig in? Who cares. You don’t even know her name.”
“Her name is Caitlin, I believe,” said the reporter.
“Well, now you know her name,” Conway snarled. “She characterized my feelings and, I said, ‘Why would you characterize my feelings without ever having met me, talked to me, asked me questions?’ She’s not like the rest of you. She’s not here at the White House, doing the beat, out here asking questions.”
“But what does that mean, cover her personal life?” the reporter pressed.
Conway shot back, “Don’t use the word ‘threaten,’ don’t use the word ‘investigate,’ and stop being so silly.”