Kellyanne Conway berated and threatened a reporter when she thought she was off the record

Kellyanne Conway berated and threatened a reporter when she thought she was off the record
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway speaks with social media personalities and live-stream video bloggers Diamond and Silk (Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson) Thursday, July 11, 2019, during the Presidential Social Media Summit in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway berated and implicitly threatened a reporter for writing a story about her potential promotion to be White House chief of staff that mentioned her husband, George Conway, the Washington Examiner reported Thursday.


The reporter in question, Caitlin Yilek, wrote the Examiner's story revealing Conway's comments. On Tuesday, Yilek wrote in the story about the potential chief of staff job:

Conway has been in the middle of Trump’s barbs with her husband, George, a conservative lawyer who frequently makes headlines for his criticism of the president. George Conway said earlier this month that White House aides should resign unless they can “have some moderating or blunting effect” on Trump. He refused to discuss his wife, who has worked for Trump since the 2016 presidential campaign.

That paragraph, it seems, got under Kellyanne Conway's skin. In a phone call, Conway told Yilek said of the article:

So, listen, if you’re going to cover my personal life, if you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here. 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. [emphasis added]

The suggestion, Yilek wrote, was that "the White House would delve into the personal lives of reporters if they wrote about her husband."

Yilek explained that, when she was first contacted by Tom Joannou, Conway's assistant, she agreed to be off the record with him — meaning she wouldn't report his comments. However, when Kellyanne Conway got on the call, she seems to have assumed that her comments, too, would be off the record with Yilek — but Yilek never agreed to that condition.

In addition to the threat, Yilek revealed that Conway berated and demeaned her.

She insulted Yilek's reporting, saying "you just read Twitter and other people’s stuff, which I guess is why you don’t pick up the phone when people call from the White House because, if it’s not on Twitter or it’s not on cable TV, it’s not real." She added: "I haven’t learned a single thing from any of your pieces."

Yilek went on, describing Conway's comments:

She said sarcastically that "you're really going places," that "nobody read your story," and wondered if this reporter had "some psychology degree."

After an offer to speak with an editor, Conway, who is notorious for berating journalists, told this reporter, 29: "Let me tell you something, from a powerful woman. Don’t pull the crap where you’re trying to undercut another woman based on who she’s married to. He gets his power through me, if you haven’t noticed. Not the other way around. And if these are the quote standards unquote at the Washington Examiner, then yes I’d be happy to talk to your editor. But I’ve known your editor since before you were born."

When Yilek suggested Conway could speak to her supervisors, who happen to be men, Conway referred to the reporter as having "to rely on the men in your life." Yilek described Conway as furious.

Conway has previously demeaned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a similarly misogynistic way, saying she only supported impeachment because of the "men around her." Conway has also previously run into trouble falsely assuming that she was off the record with a reporter.

The Examiner, it should be noted, is a right-leaning publication.

And for the record: There's nothing inappropriate at all about mentioning the fact that Conway's husband has become a high-profile critic of the president — one who has been criticized by the president himself in response — when she is herself a public face of the administration. It's simply a relevant and notable fact about two public figures.

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