Chris Cuomo was talking about how his primetime CNN show is “about getting after it, being straight, being tough, being real, getting after it” on The Late Show Thursday night when Stephen Colbert abruptly changed the subject.
“You’re friends with Kellyanne Conway and you have her on the show fairly frequently,” Colbert said. After Cuomo explained that he doesn’t have the White House counselor on as much as he used to, the host asked him, “When you guys would fight, what was it like to be friends with someone and have really quite vigorous fights on-air—when it’s all over, is it all smiles or does the animus continue after the cameras are off?”
“I have no animus,” Cuomo insisted. But when Colbert asked if she does, he quickly answered in the affirmative. “She knows what she’s doing,” he continued. “It’s a little bit like saying hello, you give someone a hug and a kiss and then as they’re pulling away they stick their thumb in your eye repeatedly.”
“Kellyanne is my friend. I respect Kellyanne and care about her and her family,” Cuomo said. “That bothers some people. I don’t care how you feel about who I’m friends with or who I’m not. She has put herself in a position where she defends the president. I want her on television because she is very close to this president as an adviser. What she says on TV is what he wants you to believe and I think that’s of extraordinary value.”
To which Colbert added, “But it’s often lies.”
Cuomo proceeded to defend Conway by saying she is “dissembling” and “spinning” rather than outright lying.
“What’s the difference between a lie and dissembling?” Colbert asked.
Cuomo explained that in his view a lie is “something you say that is intentionally wrong and you know it and you do it for purposes of deception.” Instead of lying, he maintained that Conway simply deflects or refuses to answer questions. “That’s her skill set and she is effective, which is what drives a lot of people nuts.”
“So she’s not lying, she’s just protecting someone else’s lie,” Colbert said. “She’s aiding and abetting someone else’s lie.”
Cuomo admitted that you “could it put it that way” but then defended his decision to let her “dissemble” on CNN once more. “I have her on the show because I think having the main adviser to the president of the United States is valuable to people even if they oppose him,” he said, “because it lets you see what you’re dealing with, what you’re up against with the reminder that it beat you the last time.”