White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and CNN host Chris Cuomo went at it Monday in a half-hour long marathon interview, in which the two argued back-and-forth — seemingly endlessly and with extreme acrimony — over President Donald Trump’s disdain of the media and the media’s disdain of Trump’s press criticisms.
Cuomo began the interview by prodding Conway about new Trump-Russia allegations that surfaced over the weekend, when the New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer who allegedly wanted to give Trump dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Cuomo also questioned Conway about a controversial tweet Trump made Sunday, when he openly proposed a cyber-alliance with Russia. The proposal was widely condemned.
But just as quickly as Cuomo began asking questions about Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Conway began to rip Cuomo for CNN’s coverage of the Trump-Putin meeting last week. Conway slammed CNN for reporting all last week that Trump wasn’t going to ask Putin about Russian interference in last year’s election — something that Trump by all accounts did.
Then Conway lashed out at Cuomo for covering the Trump-Russia story more often than other important American issues.
“Aren’t you the least bit reluctant, if not embarrassed, that you now talk about Russia more than you talk about America?” Conway asked.
What followed was minute after minute of Conway and Cuomo sparring over facts about the New York Times report on Trump Jr. Much of the time neither Conway nor Cuomo allowed the other one to finish their sentences before the other interrupted.
While the first two-thirds of the interview focused on the various Trump-Russia stories, the last third of the interview consisted of Conway and Cuomo going back-and-forth over CNN’s coverage of the Trump administration and Trump’s near constant condemnation of CNN.
Though Trump has made his disdain very clear for the entire mainstream media, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post are his most common targets, with CNN getting the most heat. Trump’s criticism boiled over last weekend when he labeled CNN “garbage journalism” and tweeted a video of him body-slamming “CNN."
Conway’s criticism of CNN focused on the network’s hyper-coverage of the Trump-Russia stories. The senior White House aide said CNN should devote its coverage to more important stories like what the White House is doing about the opioid crisis, how it's helping empower women, the Islamic State’s retreat in Iraq, Trump’s foreign policy, among other topics.
“Please connect America with the information they need,” Conway said. “Tell whatever 6-versus-1 anti-Trump panel we’re sorry that we cut into their time."
In response, Cuomo challenged Conway to tell Trump’s supporters to end their criticisms of the mainstream media and to stop listening to Trump’s anti-media rants.
“Tell them they shouldn’t listen to that stuff — that the media matters. That they should judge stories based on their face,” Cuomo said. “And that they shouldn’t think there’s some type of agenda out to get the president on the behalf of a free press."
“OK, I know you’re trying to go viral here,” Conway shot back. “Excuse me, we respect the First Amendment."
“But you compromise my ability to reach people with information when you say whatever you don’t like is ‘fake,'” Cuomo alleged, before continuing to talk over Conway as she tried to respond.
“You’re doing an infomercial now,” she told Cuomo. “You’re going to have to give the money back to whoever was supposed—"
“I’m doing an infomercial?! What were you doing? Making your witness?” Cuomo quipped in reply.
After more arguing, Conway finally got to her point, where she explained the Trump administration believes the media plays a “great role in this country."
“You gotta treat this guy more fairly,” she said. “You gotta treat him more openly and honestly. The snarky looks, the furrowed brows, the rolling of the eyes from so many people on your panels — and you know it. You guys have made a business decision to be anti-Trump."
Cuomo countered that the Trump administration has also made a decision: To be “antagonist” toward the media and to rally their followers to attack the media online.
Finally, in the closing minutes of the interview, the two sparred over CNN’s recent journalism blunders, including a story that connected a Trump transition member to a Russian investment bank that eventually had to be scrubbed from CNN’s website and social media.
Cuomo defended CNN as having “mostly journalists," while Conway said that CNN needs to put more balanced people on the air.
"If you want flattery there’s another channel that can give you that. We try and keep it straight, we go with both sides and test power,” Cuomo said concluding the interview, an obvious reference to Fox News.