Kellyanne Conway

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Kellyanne Conway
Kellyanne Conway by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
Counselor to the President
Assumed office
January 20, 2017
Serving with Steve Bannon
(Senior Counselor & White House Chief Strategist)
President Donald Trump
Preceded by John Podesta
Personal details
Born Kellyanne Elizabeth Fitzpatrick
(1967-01-20) January 20, 1967 (age 52)
Camden, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) George T. Conway III (m. 2001)
Children 4
Education Trinity Washington University
George Washington University

Kellyanne Elizabeth Conway (née Fitzpatrick; born January 20, 1967) is the current Counselor to U.S. president Donald Trump. She has been a Republican Party campaign manager, strategist, and pollster, and was formerly president and CEO of The Polling Company Inc./Woman Trend.[1]

In 2016, Conway endorsed Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential primaries and chaired a pro-Cruz political action committee, Keep the Promise I, which ran advertisements critical of then Republican candidate Donald Trump.[2][3]

That July, Cruz had withdrawn from the race, and Trump appointed Conway as a senior advisor and later campaign manager to his campaign.[4][5] She was the first woman to run a successful presidential campaign.[6] On December 22, 2016, Trump announced that Conway would join his administration as Counselor to the President,[7] serving alongside Steve Bannon, assistant to the President and White House chief strategist.

Since Trump's inauguration, Conway has been embroiled in a series of controversies, including using the phrase "alternative facts", making reference to a "Bowling Green massacre" which never occurred, claiming Michael Flynn had the full confidence of the president hours before he was dismissed, and publicly endorsing commercial products associated with the president's daughter Ivanka Trump. As a result, a number of media outlets have called her credibility into question, with some refusing her requests for one-on-one interviews.[8][9]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Kellyanne Elizabeth Fitzpatrick was born on January 20, 1967, in Camden, New Jersey, to Diane Fitzpatrick.[10][11] Conway's father, who had Irish ancestry, owned a small trucking company, and her mother, who was of Italian descent, worked at a bank. They divorced when she was three.[12] She was raised by her mother, grandmother and two unmarried aunts in the Atco section of Waterford Township, New Jersey, and graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1985, where she sang in the choir, played field hockey, worked on floats for parades, and was a cheerleader.[13] While in high school, she ordered the football team to stop bullying her overweight cousin, Mark DeMarco, and the bullying never occurred again.[14] Her family's religion was Catholic.[10][15][16]

Conway credits her experience working for eight summers on a blueberry farm in Hammonton, New Jersey, for teaching her a strong work ethic. "The faster you went, the more money you'd make," she said. At age 16, she won the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant. At 20, she won the World Champion Blueberry Packing competition. She states, "Everything I learned about life and business started on that farm."[16]

Conway received her Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in political science from Trinity College, Washington, D.C. (now Trinity Washington University), where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.[17] She then earned a Juris Doctor with honors from the George Washington University Law School in 1992.[18] After graduation, she served as a judicial clerk for Judge Richard A. Levie of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.[19][20]

Career[edit | edit source]

Conway entered the polling business when she was in law school, working as a research assistant for Wirthlin Group, a Republican polling firm.[18] After graduating, she initially decided to work for a law firm, but chose to work for Luntz Research Companies instead.[21] While a student at Trinity College, she had met and become friends with Frank Luntz, the founder, on a year abroad at Oxford University.[21] In 1995, she founded her own firm, the Polling Company. Conway's company has consulted on consumer trends, often trends regarding women. Conway's clients have included Vaseline, American Express and Hasbro.[22]

In the 1990s, Conway, with other young conservative women Laura Ingraham, Barbara Olsen and Ann Coulter,[18] helped turn punditry into "stylish stardom" in both Washington and cable television.[23][24] In another review of the era in the capital, Conway as Fitzpatrick put it that her "broad mind and small waist have not switched places".[25] Conway, Ingraham and Coulter, sometimes termed among others "pundettes",[26] also all appeared on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect over the period.[18]

Among the political figures Conway worked for were Congressman Jack Kemp; Senator Fred Thompson;[20][better source needed] former Vice President Dan Quayle;[27] Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; and Congressman (now Vice President) Mike Pence.[22] She worked as the senior advisor to Gingrich during his unsuccessful 2012 United States presidential election campaign.[28] Another client in 2012 was U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin.[29]

Kellyanne Conway in 2015

In addition to her political opinion research work, Conway has directed demographic and attitudinal survey projects for trade associations and private companies, including American Express, ABC News, Major League Baseball, and Ladies Home Journal.[20] Her firm The Polling Company also includes WomanTrend, a research and consulting division.[20]

Conway has appeared as a commentator on polling and the political scene, having appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, NY1, and the Fox News Channel, in addition to various radio programs. She received the Washington Post's "Crystal Ball" award for accurately predicting the outcome of the 2004 election.[30]

Conway has been described as a flack of high prominence, particularly in her role as cable TV spokesperson for the controversial Trump Administration.[31] In February 2017, the MSNBC show Morning Joe publicly "banned" Conway.[32]

2016 presidential election[edit | edit source]

Ted Cruz support and endorsement[edit | edit source]

In the 2016 Republican presidential campaign, Conway endorsed Ted Cruz and chaired a pro-Cruz political action committee known as Keep the Promise I, which was almost entirely funded by businessman Robert Mercer.[33][34] Conway's organization criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as "extreme" and "not a conservative".[3] On January 25, 2016, Conway criticized Trump as "a man who seems to be offending his way to the nomination."[35] On January 26, Conway criticized Trump's use of eminent domain, saying "Donald Trump has literally bulldozed over the little guy to get his way."[36]

In mid-June 2016, following Cruz's suspension of his campaign, Conway left the organization.[37]

Trump campaign[edit | edit source]

On July 1, 2016, Trump announced that he had hired Conway for a senior advisory position on his presidential campaign.[38] Conway was expected to advise Trump on how to better appeal to female voters.[38] On August 19, Trump named Conway the campaign's third campaign manager.[22][39] She served in this capacity for 10 weeks, through the November 8 general election, and was the first woman to successfully run an American presidential campaign,[6] as well as the first woman to run a Republican general election presidential campaign.[39] Since October 2016, Conway has been parodied on Saturday Night Live by Kate McKinnon.[40][41][42]

Presidential transition[edit | edit source]

On November 10, 2016, Conway tweeted publicly that Trump had offered her a White House job.[43] "I can have any job I want", she said on November 28.[44] On November 24, Conway tweeted that she was "Receiving deluge of social media & private comms re: Romney. Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as sec of state" with a link to an article on Trump loyalists' discontent for the 2012 nominee. Conway told CNN she was only tweeting what she has shared with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence in private.[45]

On November 28, two top sources at the Trump transition team told media outlets that Trump "was furious" at Conway for media comments she made on Trump administration cabinet appointments.[46] The following day, however, Trump released a written statement stating that the campaign sources were wrong and that he had expressed disappointment at her critical comments on Romney.[47] CNBC reported on November 28 that senior officials in the Trump transition "have reportedly been growing frustrated by Conway's failure to become a team player."[44]

On December 1, Conway appeared with senior aides of the Trump campaign, at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, for a forum on the 2016 presidential race; the quadrennial post-presidential election forum has been held at the School of Government since 1972. Sitting across from Conway were senior Clinton campaign aides, including Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook. As tempers began to flare, the forum escalated into a "shouting match"; during one exchange, Clinton senior strategist Joel Benenson said "The fact of the matter is that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump." Conway replied to Benenson while looking at the Trump aides: "Hey, guys, we won. You don't have to respond. He was the better candidate. That's why he won."[48]

In early December, Conway claimed that Hillary Clinton supporters were making death threats against her.[49]

White House aide[edit | edit source]

Alternative facts[edit | edit source]

During a Meet the Press interview two days after Trump's presidential inauguration, Conway used the phrase "alternative facts" to defend statements made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer regarding the inaugurations crowd size.[50][51][52] Conway's phrase reminded many commentators of "Newspeak", a dystopian language style that was a key element of the society portrayed in George Orwell novel 1984.[53] Soon after Conway's interview, sales of the book Nineteen Eighty-Four had increased by 9,500%, which The New York Times and others attributed to Conway's use of the phrase, making it the number-one bestseller on[54]

American Thinker, a conservative daily magazine claimed that "alternative facts" was a commonly used legal phrase and was known to most lawyers.[55] However the Guardian, a British daily newspaper, revealed that several legal databases showed no hits for the phrase.[56]

Bowling Green massacre[edit | edit source]

On February 2, 2017, Conway appeared in a television news show interview on Hardball with Chris Matthews. In order to justify President Trump's immigration ban, she referenced an event allegedly perpetrated by Iraqi terrorists she termed the "Bowling Green massacre". Such an event never took place.[57][58] Vox suggested Conway was referring to the 2011 arrest of two Iraqi refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky.[58] Conway stated the next day that she meant to say "Bowling Green terrorists", both of whom had pleaded guilty to carrying out and supporting attacks on American soldiers in Iraq.[59] There was never any suggestion that they had planned to carry out attacks in the United States.[60]

On February 5, 2017, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen argued that, given repeated misstatements of fact, Conway should cease being booked as a guest on television news shows. CNN opted not to book Conway as a guest that day because of what the network said were "serious questions about her credibility."[61][62]

Ethics violation allegations and investigation[edit | edit source]

On February 9, 2017, during an appearance on Fox & Friends, Conway discussed department store Nordstrom's decision to drop products supplied by Ivanka Trump's business. "Go buy Ivanka's stuff is what I would tell you", said Conway; she elaborated "It's a wonderful line. I own some of it. I'm going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online".[63][64] Within hours, two organizations filed formal ethics complaints against Conway for violating federal law prohibiting use of a federal position "for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise".[65] Public Citizen asked the Office of Governmental Ethics (OGE) to investigate, saying that Conway's remarks reflected "an on-going careless regard of the conflicts of interest laws and regulations of some members of the Trump family and Trump Administration". The group's president, Robert Weissman, declared that "Since she said it was an advertisement, that both eliminates any question about whether outsiders are unfairly reading into what's being said, and two, it makes clear that wasn't an inadvertent remark".[66] Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a similar complaint with the OGE and with the White House Counsel's Office;[67] the group's executive director, Noah Bookbinder, stated "This seems to us to be about as clear-cut a violation as you can find".[68]

Laurence Tribe told The New York Times that "You couldn’t think of a clearer example of violating the ban of using your government position as kind of a walking billboard for products or services offered by a private individual," adding "She is attempting quite crudely to enrich Ivanka and therefore the president's family."[68] Chris Lu, deputy secretary of labor in the Obama administration, complained to Jason Chaffetz, chair of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, that Conway had "violated" federal ethics laws,[69] also saying on Twitter that, under Obama, "If we did what @KellyannePolls did, we would've been fired".[70] Rep. Elijah Cummings also wrote to Chaffetz "to refer Conway for discipline".[71] Richard W. Painter, chief ethics attorney for George W. Bush, declined to say whether he thought Conway's statements broke the law, but that such actions would not have been tolerated in the Bush administration. "The events of the past week demonstrate that there is no intent on the part of the president, his family or the White House staff to make meaningful distinctions between his official capacity as president and the Trump family business".[68]

At the regularly scheduled afternoon press briefing, Sean Spicer told reporters that "Kellyanne has been counseled, and that's all we are going to go with ... She's been counseled on the subject, and that's it."[71]

Conway's comments drew bipartisan Congressional condemnation. Chaffetz, a Republican, called them "clearly over the line" and "unacceptable". Cummings, a Democrat and the committee's ranking member, called them "jaw-dropping",[72] Both Chaffetz and Cummings wrote the United States Office of Government Ethics on February 9, 2017, requesting that Conway's behavior be investigated and that the office recommend "suggested disciplinary action, if warranted".[73]

Banned from Morning Joe[edit | edit source]

On February 15, 2017, one national news show, Morning Joe on MSNBC, banned her from future appearances. "We know for a fact that she tries to book herself on this show. I won’t do it. Because I don’t believe in fake news, or information that is not true... every time I’ve ever seen her on television, something’s askew, off or incorrect", the show's co-host Mika Brzezinski said.[32] The show's primary host Joe Scarborough said the decision to ban Conway from future appearances was based on her being "out of the loop" and "in none of the key meetings". "She's not briefed. She’s just saying things just to get in front of the TV to prove her relevance", he said.[32]

On February 15, 2017, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin agreed that Conway should be banned from future television appearances. "In recent days, George Stephanopoulos and Matt Lauer blasted her directly, essentially calling her a fabulist. Given all that, it would be irresponsible for any news show to put her out there, suggesting she really does not know what is going on at any given moment", Rubin wrote.[74]

Michael Flynn's resignation and suspension from certain television appearances[edit | edit source]

On February 13, 2017, Conway claimed that former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn had the president's "full confidence".[75] Hours later, Flynn resigned.[75] The following day, Conway claimed Flynn had offered to resign, despite the fact that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump had asked Flynn for his resignation.[75] It was then reported that Conway had afterwards leaked negative stories about Spicer to the press.[75][76] Following a week of absence from television interviews, it was announced that the White House had sidelined Conway,[75] though White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders still alleged to CNNMoney that Conway was going to make many appearances during the week.[75]

Following the publication of the report, Conway alleged to CNN journalist Dylan Byers that she would be appearing on Fox News that evening.[75] The week-long absence from television officially ended when she appeared on an episode of Hannity during the Conservative Political Action Conference.[77]

Political views[edit | edit source]

Conway addressing the 2017 March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Conway views herself as a Generation X conservative.[78][79] Conway is pro-life, saying in 1996: "We are pro-life. The fetus beat us. We grew up with sonograms. We know life when we see it."[79] She spoke at the 2017 March for Life, an annual rally protesting abortion and Roe v. Wade.[80]

In 2014, Conway coauthored a memo for the pro-amnesty group that supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States.[81]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Conway is married to George T. Conway III.[82] He is a litigation partner at the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in 2001, and wrote the Supreme Court brief for Paula Jones during the Clinton impeachment in 1998.[83] [84] The couple have four children, twins Claudia and George IV, Charlotte, and Vanessa.[84] They live in Alpine, New Jersey.[20][85][86]

Raised in a Catholic family, Conway said in January 2017 that she is involved in her faith.[87] Reflecting her upbringing, Conway chose "Blueberry" as her Secret Service code name.[88]

Book[edit | edit source]

In 2005, Conway and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake co-authored What Women Really Want: How American Women Are Quietly Erasing Political, Racial, Class, and Religious Lines to Change the Way We Live (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2005; ISBN 0-7432-7382-6).

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "The Polling Company". Effective January 20th, 2017, Kellyanne Conway has resigned as President and CEO of the polling company/WomanTrend. Brett Loyd, previously Director of Political Services, has been named the new President and CEO. 
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  74. 75.0 75.1 75.2 75.3 75.4 75.5 75.6 Byers, Dylan (February 22, 2017). "Kellyanne Conway sidelined from TV after Flynn debacle". Retrieved March 10, 2017. 
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  85. Johnson, Brent. "How N.J. native Conway got Trump over the finish line", NJ Advance Media for, November 9, 2016. Accessed November 9, 2016. "Conway, who grew up in the Atco section of Waterford Township in Camden County, was hired in August, at a time when Trump was suffering from gaffes and drooping poll numbers... Conway, her husband, and her four children now live in the northern part of the state, in Alpine in Bergen County."
  86. Frates, Katie (27 January 2017). "‘I’m A Mother, A Wife, And A Catholic’: Kellyanne Conway Addresses March For Life". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 2 April 2017. I am a wife. A mother. A Catholic. 
  87. Nuzzi, Olivia. "Kellyanne Conway Is the Real First Lady of Trump’s America". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 

External links[edit | edit source]

Political offices
Title last held by
John Podesta
Counselor to the President
Served alongside: Steve Bannon, Dina Powell