Donald Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway hints at leaving: "I'll be with him till the bitter end. Unless . . . ”

Sometimes truth can lie between the lines. That's what may have happened to Trump's latest campaign manager

By Melanie McFarland

TV Critic

Published October 10, 2016 4:28AM (EDT)

Kellyanne Conway (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
Kellyanne Conway (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

After Friday’s release of the viral video that featured Donald Trump bragging about groping women to a compliant Billy Bush, one would think that all players within NBC’s corporate family would have received a memo about being mindful of hot mics. Maybe they did.

But in the fast-moving world of post-debate coverage, sometimes audio feeds remain open and grant an interviewee the opportunity to spin her way out of a possible problem of her own making. Such is the case with Trump’s media-savvy campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who sat down with MSNBC's Chris Matthews in the post-debate spin room in St. Louis and appeared to let slip that she may be thinking of parting ways with her orange-skinned boss. It all came down to one word, "unless," followed by a pause so pregnant you could hear the silence painfully giving birth to an ellipsis.

Conway did not appear to be wavering in her support of her candidate for the most part. For some time Matthews let her praise Trump’s performance in the debate, placing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s defensiveness in a harsh light all the while.

Near the end of the interview, Matthews said, “So you’re with the campaign till the bitter end.”

Conway replied, “I'm with the campaign till the bitter end. Unless . . . ” Conway then looked up into the distance, as if her internal editor had suddenly switched on.

“Unless what?” Matthews pressed her. She shrugged before quickly adding, “But I’m sitting here as his campaign manager. I’m sitting right here with you, in the debate hall where he just performed beautifully.”

“So you’re worried about more shoes dropping?” Matthews asked.

“No! I didn't say that. No, no, no. I’ve made a commitment,” Conway said, before pivoting to Trump’s performance.

Back at the studio, MSNBC’s panel was not having it. Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams and Chuck Todd immediately seized on Conway’s statement as an indication that she might be having second thoughts. Commentator Nicolle Wallace speculated that she knew there was even worse footage of her boss lurking in the ether, waiting to be dropped online at any moment.

As they were heatedly discussing these possibilities, the producers cut back to Matthews in the spin room, where the feed was still live and Conway could hear everything they were saying.

Thus, when Maddow pressed Conway on what she meant by “unless,” the self-described mother of four fabulous children had this clarification locked and loaded.

“Unless someone in my household needs me,” she replied, “or unless something changes in my own life.”

That's the classic line for anyone seeking to make a quick exit from a sticky political situation.


By Melanie McFarland

Melanie McFarland is Salon's TV critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

MORE FROM Melanie McFarland

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2016 Elections Kellyanne Conway Msnbc Town Hall Debate Video