Top White House aide Kellyanne Conway, describing herself as “a powerful woman,” aggressively and disparagingly told a female reporter that it was improper to write about her husband and threatened to investigate the reporter’s personal life.
This journalist, a breaking news reporter for the Washington Examiner, had written an article on Tuesday about President Trump considering Conway, counselor to the president, as his next chief of staff, based on reporting from Bloomberg News. Tom Joannou, Conway’s assistant, contacted Caitlin Yilek on Tuesday evening to ask for her phone number without specifying why he wanted to talk. Joannou called Yilek on Wednesday morning.
Joannou requested that the conversation with him be off the record. This reporter agreed, but moments later, Conway took over the call, initiating a new conversation without any agreement that it was off the record. The Washington Examiner is publishing audio and a transcript of the full exchange.
Conway, 52, was furious that her husband George Conway, 56, who has attracted considerable media coverage by publicly feuding with Trump, was mentioned in the story. She took issue with a line in the story that she had “been in the middle of Trump’s barbs with her husband, George, a conservative lawyer who frequently makes headlines for his criticism of the president.”
She said: “So I just am wondering why in God’s earth you would need to mention anything about George Conway’s tweets in an article that talks about me as possibly being chief of staff. Other than it looks to me like there’s no original reporting here, you just read Twitter and other people’s stuff, which I guess is why you don’t pick up the phone when people call from the White House because, if it’s not on Twitter or it’s not on cable TV, it’s not real.”
When this reporter said she had initially not taken the call because it appeared to be from Egypt and that the mention of George Conway was “relevant context,” Conway asked: “Do you talk about other people’s spouses in your pieces, ’cause I’ve been looking around, I haven’t learned a single thing from any of your pieces, and I’m just wondering if you routinely talk about peoples spouses.”
She said sarcastically that “you’re really going places,” that “nobody read your story,” and wondered if this reporter had “some psychology degree.”
After an offer to speak with an editor, Conway, who is notorious for berating journalists, told this reporter, 29: “Let me tell you something, from a powerful woman. Don’t pull the crap where you’re trying to undercut another woman based on who she’s married to. He gets his power through me, if you haven’t noticed. Not the other way around. And if these are the quote standards unquote at the Washington Examiner, then yes I’d be happy to talk to your editor. But I’ve known your editor since before you were born.”
This reporter repeatedly suggested Conway speak to her editors, naming the breaking news editor and the managing editor, who are both men. Conway mockingly referred to this reporter’s relationship with her editors as having “to rely on the men in your life.”
She said: “You’re still not telling me what compels you to characterize my feelings in your story having never talked to me. You can answer that question without your editors. You don’t have to rely upon the men in your life and pretend somehow by way of reporting that I rely on the men in my life, which clearly isn’t the case.
“Do you think you could have written in there, first, only woman, first woman to run a successful presidential campaign? Do you think you could have described me as somebody who wears red a lot, or is a mother of four, who has been here from day one and has survived all these other people? Or maybe you have an obligation to tell people, well as far as you know, I’m not a leaker, let alone the leaker.”
Conway continued: “When I was young and starting in my career, I was in the friend-making business. And I’ve worked super hard. You could have put that in paragraph two also. But I’m not caught in the middle of anything except trying to understand somebody whose title is breaking news reporter, what that means.”
This reporter responded: “I don’t know that that is characterizing your feelings to say you’re put in the middle if your husband and your boss are attacking each other.”
Before ending the call, Conway threatened that the White House would delve into the personal lives of reporters if they wrote about her husband. “Listen, if you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here,” she said. “If it has nothing to do with my job, which it doesn’t, that’s obvious, then we’re either going to expect you to cover everybody’s personal life or we’re going to start covering them over here.”
The Conways, who are worth a reported $39 million, married at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia in 2001 after being introduced by conservative firebrand Ann Coulter. George Conway III had represented Paula Jones in the lawsuit against President Bill Clinton, which helped lead to his impeachment. He was familiar with Kellyanne Fitzpatrick’s television appearances and asked Coulter, a close friend, about the prominent Republican pollster when he saw her photograph on the cover of a magazine. They now have four children together, twins George IV and Claudia, 14, Charlotte, 11, and Vanessa, 9.
George Conway introduced his wife to Trump shortly after they were married, and they had moved into an apartment at Trump World Tower in Manhattan. George made an impression on the future president and argued at a condo board meeting against removing Trump’s name from the building. Trump offered him a seat on the condo board. George declined but passed the offer on to Kellyanne, who accepted. George later said: “My laziness led her to meet Donald Trump.”
In March 2017, Trump offered George Conway a top role in the Justice Department as head of the Civil Division, though he was never nominated. He withdrew himself from consideration in June 2017, saying he was “profoundly grateful” to Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions “for selecting me to serve in the Department of Justice,” adding: “Kellyanne and I continue to support the President and his Administration, and I look forward to doing so in whatever way I can from outside the government.”
But George Conway swiftly became a relentless and outspoken critic of Trump. Two days after his withdrawal announcement, he criticized Trump’s travel ban via Twitter. In August 2018, he said Trump was incapable of “faithfully” executing laws, and last November, he characterized the Trump administration as a “shit show in a dumpster fire.” He suggested Trump was tampering with witnesses in the Mueller investigation and in March publicly diagnosed him with narcissistic personality disorder.
Trump hit back, branding George Conway a “stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!” and a “whack job.” In April, George Conway described Trump as “a cancer” and dubbed him “Deranged Donald.” In May, he called Trump a “malignant narcissist” and in June called him “unshowered.” In July, he said there was “no doubt” Trump was racist, and last month he said he was a “local moron.” This month, he penned an 11,500-word article in the Atlantic headlined “Unfit for Office,” arguing that the president’s “ingrained and extreme behavioral characteristics make it impossible for him to carry out the duties of the presidency.”
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