After Donald Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway had such a poor performance on Meet The Press this morning that she unwittingly coined the phrase “alternative facts” which became an instant national punchline, I penned an op-ed predicting that the incident could end up being the end of her. Numerous readers understandably took the position that Conway, who is a favorite of Trump, may be untouchable. But in a new development, she’s now being forced to walk back yet another dumb thing she said this morning.
Conway was also on a different morning show today, ABC This Week, in which she announced that “The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns” even after his supposed current audit concludes, adding that “People didn’t care” about his tax returns. But this evening she had to walk that back, telling CNN that she back to blaming the audit.
When presidential advisors appear on the television talk show circuit, their job is to gracefully take pies in the face from the media in a way that diffuses whatever presidential scandals the media os focusing on. Throughout the campaign, Kellyanne Conway was effective in this role. Even though she often lied and rarely answered the questions she was asked, she managed to befuddle interviewers to the point that her claims went unchallenged, allowing Trump’s message to stand.
But over the past month Conway has become progressively less effective in this regard. The first blow was an interview a month ago with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC in which she was exposed for not knowing a number of things she should have known. Then came the decision by Meet The Press days later to ditch 90% of her interview because it was unwatchable. That was followed by an appearance on the comedy show NBC Late Night in which she was overmatched by a piercing Seth Meyers.
With Sean Spicer assuming the role of White House Press Secretary this week, a role which typically does this kind of mopping up, it wasn’t entirely clear what role Kellyanne Conway would play as far as television appearances. But after Spicer was utterly ineffective yesterday while awkwardly reading a prepared statement full of false claims about the inauguration attendance, it fell to Conway today to clean up the mess.
Instead, Kellyanne made the mess bigger. By using the phrase “alternative facts” she more or less admitted that Spicer had been lying, and she handed Trump’s critics their new de facto slogan. She also made Trump’s tax returns into a higher profile scandal than they already were, and was forced to walk back her own comments, leaving it unclear just what the Trump administration’s position might be on his tax returns.
Publicly visible advisors like Conway are supposed to clean up these messes, or at least distract the media and the public from them. Instead she made two of Trump’s core scandals worse for him today. So when I suggested she may be on her way out, this is why. If you call on a janitor who merely makes your mess even bigger, you may end up looking for a new janitor. And Trump can’t be happy with Conway’s now increasingly frequent flubs.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report