Kellyanne Conway lashes out at reporter for asking about diversity: "What’s happened to you?"

Unable to explain away a diversity problem, Conway pivots to a personal attack: "I don't know why you've changed"

Published April 16, 2020 6:50PM (EDT)

Kellyanne Conway (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Kellyanne Conway (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway lashed out at CBS News correspondent Paula Reid after she was pressed to explain the evident lack of diversity on President Donald Trump's recently announced "Opening Our Country Council."

"Paula, I actually don't know what's happened to you," Conway said in the tense exchange, which was captured by C-SPAN.

Referencing the long list of names rattled off by Trump at a Tuesday briefing, Reid first asked Conway to explain how the council would function.

"How will they work? How will they meet? How will they make recommendations to the president?" she first asked at a press gaggle before pivoting to the issue of diversity. 

"And is there any thought to diversifying that council beyond what is predominantly a group of very wealthy white men?" Reid continued. 

Conway responded that Trump had calls scheduled that very day with some of the individuals on the list, which she characterized as "probably less exhaustive than it is illustrative." She then defended the homogeny of the council's membership, claiming that Trump does not get to pick "who the heads of the sports commission leagues and CEOs of companies are."

And when Reid pushed back — pointing out that the White House could, in fact, include a range of voices — Conway turned the argument into a personal one.

"Paula, I actually don't know what's happened to you," she told the journalist. "Respectfully, I don't know why you've changed."

The senior White House official then accused Reid of both "screaming at Anthony Fauci and the president of the United States" in the White House briefing room. This was an apparent reference to two exchanges during Monday's briefing. In he first, Reid asked Fauci — without screaming — when about remarks that sparked fears of his termination by Trump. 

In a rare display of emotion, Fauci expressed visible contempt for Reid's question. The doctor replied, "Everything I do is voluntarily." Later in the briefing, the president called Reid "disgraceful" when she pressed him on a series of inaccuracies in his attempt to defend the administration's response to the pandemic.

"You know you're a fake," Trump added. "You know that. Your whole network — the way you cover it — is fake."

Conway later added, "I frankly think it's unbecoming, but that aside, I'll answer the question about how they're going to help America, which is why I'm here. I think you're here for a different reason, it seems these days."

She then wandered for two minutes through a forest of talking points that included: the economy, the flattening curve, hospital capacity and former Democratic presidential nominee Bill DeBlasio. However, she did not address either diversity or the council's function generally, which appears to be unclear even to its own members.

Conway has a record of turning questions from the press into personal attacks when they get contentious. In October, for example, she threatened to investigate a Washington Examiner reporter's personal life. And when a reporter asked her in July 2019 to explain racist remarks Trump made about a group of Democratic congresswomen, Conway demanded to know the reporter's ethnicity.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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Diversity Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway Politics Republicans