by Ben Cohen
A trick used by Donald Trump’s PR team throughout the 2016 election was to completely ignore questions asked of them by the media, and instead talk about whatever they wanted. This usually involved a long diatribe about the “carnage” in America’s inner cities, and what a disaster Obamacare was.
While an age old tactic used by every political PR team in history, it took only the most skilled of liars to pull it off with Donald Trump — a candidate who spread so many provable falsehoods that teams of fact checkers couldn’t keep up with him. Enter Kellyanne Conway, a saccharine sweet soccer mom who could not only lie as easily as Donald Trump, but create an almost perfect alternate universe where facts were actually hateful liberal propaganda, and Trump an oppressed victim of “the liberal media”. When Donald Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, Conway turned it into a referendum on Bill Clinton — who wasn’t running for president and had nothing to do with, well, anything. Conway quickly became Trump’s most potent weapon — the all American gal who could deliver canned, cookie cutter responses devoid of any factual basis to soften his image and appeal to enough white women in order to swing the election.
Fast forward to today, and Conway’s lying ability is in even greater demand. With Trump now holding office, he will actually be held to account for his actions, and given he is completely incapable of telling the truth under any circumstance, Conway will be working overtime to limit the damage of her boss.
Literally a day into his presidency, Trump started lying through his teeth about the size of his inauguration. Thousands of photos showed more people had attended the swearing-in ceremony of Barack Obama in 2009 than Trump’s inauguration on Friday, yet the president accused journalists reporting this as being “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth”. Trump’s new press secretary Sean Spicer — on his first day on the job — repeated the lie and incredibly upped the ante. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” he told a flabbergasted press.
Anyone with functioning eyes understands that this was an astonishing lie, yet the Trump administration continues to argue that they are entitle to their own facts.
In response to the damage, Conway went on Meet The Press with Chuck Todd yesterday and attempted to convince the public that there were “alternate facts”. Here was the exchange:
CHUCK TODD: Let me begin with this question, the presidency is about choices. So I’m curious why President Trump chose yesterday to send out his press secretary to essentially litigate a provable falsehood when it comes to a small and petty thing like inaugural crowd size. I guess my question to you is why do that?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Chuck, the president did many things yesterday and the day before that are very meaningful to America. He signed executive orders to stop Obamacare and all of its problems. Many people have lost their– Millions of people have lost their insurance, their doctors, their plans. So that stops right now.
He’s going to replace it with something much more free-market and patient-centric in nature. And on this matter of crowd size, I mean, for me I think the most quantifiable points of interest for Americans should be what just happened a few months ago that brought him here, the 31 of 50 states he won, the 2,600 counties, the 200 counties that went for President Obama that now went to President Trump. And the fact that 29, 30 million women voted for Donald Trump for president. They should be respected. Somebody should cover their voices as well.
I’m about things that are quantifiable and important. I don’t think that– I don’t think ultimately presidents are judged by crowd sizes at their inauguration. I think they’re judged by their accomplishments. And we know that President Obama and his accomplishments, that there’s a lot of unfinished business there.
And on this matter of crowd size I think it is a symbol for the unfair and incomplete treatment that this president often receives. I’m very heartened to see Nielsen just came out with the ratings, 31 million people watching the inauguration. President Obama had 20.5 million watching his second inauguration four short years ago. So we know people are also watching the inauguration on different screens and in different modes. And that there was, I mean, for me there was a prediction of a downpour of rain. I think that deterred many people from coming. But no question there were hundreds of thousands of people out on the mall and–
The construct of Conway’s response is worth looking into more closely as it reveals how incredibly dishonest and shameless she is.
Firstly, Conway begins her response by not addressing the question. Todd did not ask her about Donald Trumps (non-existent) health care plan, he asked her specifically about Trump’s lie about the size of his inauguration. Tailoring her response to Trump supporters, she forgoes any pretense of honesty and throws them some red meat about Obamacare, thus setting up the second dishonest part of her argument. Conway then goes on to describe Trump’s lie as “a symbol for the unfair and incomplete treatment that this president often receives” — an amazing contortion of reality that only a pathological liar could pull off without batting an eyelid. She then pivots to Obama’s numbers for his second inauguration — which again has nothing to do with Todd’s question about Trump lying — and then starts to make a litany of excuses for the poor showing (rain, watching it on different mediums and so on).
Todd intervened in an attempt to derail Conway’s stream of deceit over Trump’s lying, asking her flatly to answer the question. The exchange here is also incredibly revealing:
CHUCK TODD: –you make a very reasonable and rational case for why crowd sizes don’t matter. Then explain, you did not answer the question, why did the president send out his press secretary, who’s not just the spokesperson for Donald Trump. He could be– He also serves as the spokesperson for all of America at times. He speaks for all of the country at times. Why put him out there for the very first time in front of that podium to utter a provable falsehood? It’s a small thing. But the first time he confronts the public it’s a falsehood?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Chuck, I mean, if we’re going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms I think that we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here. I want to have a great open relationship with our press. But look what happened the day before talking about falsehoods.
We allowed the press– the press to come into the Oval Office and witness President Trump signing executive orders. And of course, you know, the Senate had just confirmed General Mattis and General Kelly to their two posts. And we allowed the press in. And what happens almost immediately? A falsehood is told about removing the bust of Martin Luther King Junior from the Oval Office. No, that’s just flat out false. And the pool writer…
When Chuck Todd calls the White House press secretary out for telling an easily provable lie, Conway responds with a threat.
“If we’re going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms I think that we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here.”
This, for lack of a better word, is completely outrageous. Not only does Conway still refuse to answer the question, but she attempts to turn the tables on “the media” by telling another lie about them spreading false rumors (Time Magazine did report on the Dr. King bust was missing, but corrected their article when they learned otherwise and apologized for the mistake).
Todd continued trying to stop Conway from changing the subject, but to little avail. After asking her again why Trump chose to lie for no good reason about something utterly trivial, Conway responded with this awesome bending of reality:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What– You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains–
So according to Conway, an egregious lie is simply an “alternative fact”. It is hard to convey just how appalling, and terrifying, this truly is. On his first full day in office, Trump blatantly lied, and his administration simply perpetuated the lie with even more lying. Kellyanne Conway’s defense of Trump and Spicer is perhaps the most appalling interpretation of the lying, because she does it incredibly well. Conway understands the art of mud throwing, and that almost any crisis can be deflected by changing the subject and reframing any attack on Trump’s honesty as a vast liberal conspiracy. We witnessed much of the same under the Bush administration, but Trump’s team are taking barefaced lying and the shameless twisting of reality to a completely new level. Now there are “alternative facts”, literally anything Trump says or does can be reinterpreted. Trump can have alternate facts on climate change, alternate facts on how many people he insures with his new health care policy and alternate facts on the state of the economy. Whenever the media call Trump out on this alternate reality, Kellyanne Conway will simply accuse them of distracting the public from the real story (that everything is Obama’s fault) and wanting to smear the president.
And if you are wondering how far Trump and Conway are prepared to go, this insane assertion should give you a good idea:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Chuck, do you think it’s a fact or not that millions of people have lost their plans or health insurance and their doctors under President Obama? Do you think it’s a fact that everything we heard from these women yesterday happened on the watch of President Obama? He was president for eight years. Donald Trump’s been here for about eight hours.
Leaving aside the blatant lie about millions of people losing their health insurance and doctors under Obama (they absolutely did not), Conway is apparently suggesting that Obama was responsible for women being raped while he was in office. Yes, it really is that bad.
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