During an epic 28-minute interview, CNN's Jake Tapper relentlessly pressed White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on the flurry of lies that the administration cranks out. Amazingly, he got Conway to agree, repeatedly, to the "spray of falsehoods" coming from Donald Trump.
Jake Tapper has made his disgust with Donald Trump‘s administration apparent, and on CNN’s The Lead, he got the opportunity to hold them accountable by grilling White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for nearly half an hour.
The bulk of the interview consisted of desperate spin from Conway, punctuated by Tapper’s blunt confrontations of the facts, but there were two extraordinary moments in which Tapper managed to unmask the administration’s purposeful mendacity.
First, after confronting Conway over multiple Trump falsehoods, Tapper got Conway to agree that “sprays of falsehoods” come from the Trump White House, which Conway then used in order to bargain for more favorable coverage (emphasis mine):
TAPPER: I would be much rather covering immigration, I would much rather be covering trade, and I would much rather be covering draining the swamp and-counter terrorism. But instead, every day, there are these sprays of attack and sprays of falsehoods coming from the White House. It would be better if they were not coming from the White House, for me and for you.
CONWAY: Agreed. And let me just say it has to go both ways. I mean, I do, Jake, I sincerely don’t see a lot of difference in coverage from when he was a candidate, and when he became the Republican nominee, the president-elect, and indeed the president. Some outlets, some people cover him the same way, and it doesn’t have a great deal of respect, I think, for the office of the president’s current occupant. All I would say is, you know, biased coverage, people talk about that, I think bias is easy to detect, and it’s really in the eye of the beholder. What I would put an olive branch out to you and your network is, how about more complete coverage?
Conway is explicitly, and astoundingly, agreeing that the Trump White House lies, and proposing that “it has to go both ways,” that if journalists offer more “complete” and respectful coverage, that might change.
Later in the interview, Conway tried to spin out of another lie with a non-sequitur anecdote about a reporter who called her about a story which did not pan out. Again, Tapper confronted Conway about the stream of lies, and again, Conway happily conceded the point:
TAPPER: How about the president’s statements, Kellyanne, how about the president’s statements that are false, like the murder rate is the highest it’s been in almost half a century? False. How about the fact that the media doesn’t report on terrorist attacks? False. I mean, you can talk about some jerk with some website making a mistake or almost making a mistake —
CONWAY: He’s not a jerk, he’s a friend of ours.
TAPPER: Alright, he’s a very sweet guy. You can talk about somebody almost making a mistake and not doing it. I’m talking about the president of the United States saying things that are not true, demonstrably not true. That is important, and arguably more important than whoever reached you at your daughter’s play.
CONWAY: Are they more important than the many things that he says that are true, that are making a difference in people’s lives? I just think we want coverage of that as well —
TAPPER: They distract from them. They distract from things he says.
CONWAY: If they get covered, they do.
Again, Conway happily concedes Trump’s falsehoods, but incredibly scolds the media for covering those falsehoods, instead of whatever true things Conway alleges that Trump says.
The unsubtle mission of Trump’s press shop has been to discredit the very idea of facts, and replace them with their own opinions — or in their terminology, “alternative facts.” Conway’s incredible performance here simply makes that mission explicit.
It also demonstrates the grip this White House feels it has on power — so much so that they can openly admit to their lies, and yet still manage to use them to escape accountability.