The unflappable Kellyanne Conway has become an expert at spinning all things Donald Trump, as she has ably proved in appearances over the past fews weeks on Real Time With Bill Maher, Meet the Press, and elsewhere.
But that shiny veneer showed signs of cracking after what has been widely viewed by pundits and likely voters as a loss by Trump in the first presidential debate. Appearing on Fox News with Trump’s one-time foe Megyn Kelly on Wednesday night, Conway seemed as flustered as she’s ever been on television as the host grilled her about the candidate’s treatment of women over the years.
When Conway accused Hillary Clinton of running “not nice” attacks ads against Trump, Kelly shot back, “Kellyanne, come on. It’s not nice? They are running for president! Of course she going to hit him with negative ads.” Plus, she added, “The ads that she is running about him, when it comes to his comments about women, use his words.”
There wasn’t much Conway could do to spin that. So did she have time to collect herself and get back on track before sitting down with the hosts of The View on Thursday morning after canceling on them at the last minute earlier this month? Apparently not.
“Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is getting in the hot seat in ‘Hot Topics’ and nothing’s off the table,” the show’s announcer promised at the top of the hour. The New Jersey Transit crash in Hoboken meant that the show was preempted in the New York area, but it still aired in other major markets across the country.
The interview began with a compliment from right-leaning host Jedediah Bila, who gave Conway “credit where credit is due” for helping create some “positive” moments for the Trump campaign since she came on board this summer. But Bila’s first question concerned whether Trump “lost his nerve” while confronting Clinton during the debate.
“I thought he was a complete gentleman to her and he hasn't gotten a lot of credit for that,” Conway replied, citing Trump asking if he could call his opponent “Secretary Clinton” and saying “I want you to be happy,” along with his decision not to bring up her husband’s infidelities as proof.
On the substance side of things, Conway promised that Trump will show up next time on issues like Obamacare, Benghazi, and the Clinton Foundation, all of which went unmentioned Monday night. “He obviously knows all those issues, had prepared all those issues,” she said, “but he actually was answering the questions asked of him,” unlike Clinton, who deftly pivoted to the points she needed to hit—in other words, debating.
Whoopi Goldberg, meanwhile, challenged Conway to get Trump to appear on The View instead of sticking to his friends at Fox News, as he has done in recent weeks. “It would have been nice if he had shown up because I noticed he goes to all the shows where the guys are,” she said. When Conway explained that he’s not in New York, Goldberg shot back, “Kellyanne, honey, I’m a New Yorker. Don't B.S. a B.S.-er.”
Throughout the segment, Conway was adept at naming the specifics of Trump’s policy positions but could not explain why he was unable to lay out those same details during the debate. When she repeatedly tried to pivot to Clinton’s record, Goldberg interrupted her with, “No, we’re talking about Donald, baby, don’t change the subject.”
The hosts also pressed Conway to explain why Trump thinks bringing up Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs is “fair game” when he clearly has had his own problems in that department. “I'm not advising him to go there,” Conway said of the next debate. But, she added, “It's fair game to think about how Hillary Clinton treated those women after the fact.” When she talked about being raised in a family of women, Goldberg replied, “That’s why we’re so shocked that you’re supporting him.”
Things only got more uncomfortable when the name Alicia Machado came up. Asked for her thoughts on Trump’s past comments about the Miss Universe winner’s weight, Conway simply said, “I don’t discuss people’s weights and their looks. I’m sure that on your Twitter feed right now you have viewers discussing my looks and my intelligence.” She said she did “reprimand” Trump for those comments, but at the same time she defended him by saying he gave Machado a “second chance” when the Miss Universe company wanted her fired.
“So what? It has nothing to do with her being fat or skinny,” Joy Behar said when Conway started to bring up Machado’s “troubled history.”
Later in the show, the hosts continued to press Conway to explain what was up with Trump’s “sniffles” and water drinking during the debate, questioning his health just as he had called Clinton’s into question. “I guess he was thirsty,” Conway said, trying to laugh away the issue. Once again, Conway tried to change to the subject to Clinton’s emails and they wouldn’t let her.
“Where are his damn tax returns and why don’t we know what he spent?” Goldberg asked, calling the “transparency” discrepancies between the two candidates “insane.” When she finally got Conway to repeat Trump’s excuse about being under audit, Goldberg shouted, “It’s bull! It’s bull! What is he hiding?”
Conway got out of that exchange without having to give up anything else, but soon it was on to the latest scandal over Trump’s reported violations of the Cuba embargo. She insisted that there was nothing “treasonous” about her candidate’s activities, but she couldn’t quite deny the facts this time.
Before the interview was over, Conway got in some final talking points about how she did not hear any “aspirational, uplifting message” from Clinton during the first debate.
“You need to rewatch it because I think you missed something,” Goldberg told her to applause from the audience.
The interview ended with one last plea for Trump to come on the show before Election Day. After Thursday morning, those chances grew even slimmer.