- CNN host Chris Cuomo and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway traded verbal jabs at each other in a wild 30-minute interview on Thursday night.
- Cuomo opened the interview with a primer on this week’s avalanche of news, including court cases involving President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.
- Conway and Cuomo were soon sparring and, at points, talking over each other in a wild 30-minute interview.
CNN host Chris Cuomo and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway traded verbal jabs at each other in a wild 30-minute interview on Thursday night.
The two were set to discuss this week’s avalanche of news, but the interview soon went off the rails.
“There’s a little difference between you and me and the shop you’re working for,” Cuomo told Conway at one heated point during the interview.
“The White House?,” Conway replied.
“Integrity,” Cuomo said.
“How dare you,” Conway shot back.
“How dare me?,” Cuomo said.
The interview comes after a particularly tough few days for President Donald Trump, whose former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort was convicted by a jury on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, among other charges.
Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen also pleaded guilty to multiple crimes and implicated Trump in two of them.
One of those crimes involved a $US130,000 payment Cohen said he made “at the direction” of Trump made just before the 2016 election to keep the porn star Stormy Daniels quiet about a sexual relationship she said she had with Trump.
Cohen’s account conflicted with Trump’s and the White House’s previous statements on the hush-money payment, which led The Washington Post to call the statements a “lie” in its fact-checking analyses.
That fact wasn’t lost on Cuomo, who flatly referred to Trump’s remarks on the payment “a lie.”
But Conway deflected the accusation and steered Cuomo’s interview towards other subjects – talking points that echoed the White House’s criticism against media outlets, including CNN.
The following quotes have been slightly edited for clarity.
Allegations of Russian collusion by the Trump campaign:
CONWAY: “Where is that? You’ve spent so much sweat equity, invested in so many screaming graphics and time, and experts talking about everything from impeachment to collusion.”
CUOMO: “You got to ask Mueller, he’s not done with his investigation,” Cuomo said, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller.
CONWAY: “No, let’s be fair. You weren’t waiting for Mueller. CNN is not, respectfully, [waiting] for Bob Mueller to finish his investigation. Because you’ve been talking about collusion and been promising it to your viewers.”
CUOMO: “Never, literally not once.”
Cuomo went on to describe Conway’s portrayal of CNN as “patently untrue.”
CUOMO: “We don’t promise the audience an outcome. We tell them that you have to respect the process.”
CONWAY: “I don’t want your viewers to, and I know your viewers expect to be fed anti-Trump virulence every single night. And they come away quite satisfied.”
Criticism of CNN’s coverage of Trump:
CONWAY: “You know [CNN’s] audience doesn’t trust the White House. Because all day long, on your network, all they hear is how terrible we all are. That we lack integrity. That we lie.”
CONWAY: “Which word do you think has been mentioned more on CNN? Collusion? Fentanyl? Impeachment? What do you think is mentioned more on CNN? Twenty-nine thousand people died last year in this country because … of Fentanyl.”
CUOMO: “It all matters. It all matters.”
CONWAY: “Zero died because of impeachment. Zero died because of collusion. Zero died because of the word ‘lying.'”
CUOMO: “That’s not the bar of presidential behaviour. So here’s what you’re saying – so, if the economy’s good, then you can lie whenever you want. You can divide the country any way you want. You can play to racist sympathies whenever you want. But it’s o.k. because the stock markets up.”
That one tweet:
CONWAY: “Secretary of state Mike Pompeo going back to North Korea again because they’re trying to denuclearize … “
CUOMO: “Was he going there before or after he goes to South Africa to help out those white farmers?”
CONWAY: “Christopher, come on. Be serious.”
Cuomo referred to Trump’s late-night tweet on Wednesday which said he directed Pompeo to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”
Trump appeared to allude to a conspiracy theory and dog whistle for racist and white nationalists – a conspiracy based on South Africa’s post-apartheid land reform which suggests white farmers were being killed. Studies have reportedly shown, however, that the killing of white farmers in South Africa have been at a 20-year low.
On domestic politics:
Conway criticised CNN’s coverage of the death of 20-year-old college student Mollie Tibbetts, which coincided with the convictions of Manafort and Cohen on Tuesday. The network did provide coverage on Tibbetts’ death and the arrest of her suspected murderer, but dedicated the vast majority of airtime to updates from Cohen’s and Manafort’s trial.
CNN’s coverage on the trials is contrasted by Fox News, which dedicated the majority of their airtime for Tibbetts’ death. Fox News has since been accused of downplaying the significance of convicting Trump’s former associates, and fuelling his warpath against undocumented immigrants.
CONWAY: “There was wall-to-wall coverage about a missing woman in Iowa until she was found, and God rest her soul, and then …”
CUOMO: “God rest her soul? You’re not letting her soul rest. You’re waving her like a flag … ‘if you’re not with us about immigrants, then you don’t care about Mollie Tibbetts.'”
CONWAY: “How dare you. How dare you.”
Conway also took a shot at the NFL protests – a non-violent demonstration of players who protest police misconduct and gun violence – which Trump has continued to criticise in numerous campaign speeches.
CONWAY: “Do you do this when they play the national anthem?,” Conway asked as she placed her hand over her heart.” “Or don’t you, yes or no?”
CUOMO: “I do.”
CONWAY: “OK, why?”
CUOMO: “Because it’s my damn choice, that’s why. Because it’s my damn choice. Because I’m an American and I’ll exercise my freedom the way I want to if it doesn’t hurt anybody else. And that’s what they’re doing to.”
Cuomo later fired back at Conway by referring to a crude comment Trump made in reference to the protestors. At a campaign rally in September, Trump described the protestors as a “son of a bitch,” and told them to get off the playing field.
CUOMO: “You know what’s also great? Not calling them sons of bitches. That’s also great.”
CUOMO: “People of colour.”
CONWAY: “Oh, stop it, Christopher.”
Cuomo vs. Conway
CONWAY: “You were a world class journalist who used to go to plane crash sites and cover war.”
CUOMO: “I go now. I was in Helsinki and saw one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever seen in my life,” Cuomo said, referring to the location of Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July.
Following the summit, Trump was criticised for stopping short of condemning Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election and appeared to hold reservations against US intelligence reports that revealed Russia’s interference.
CUOMO: “It was really embarrassing.”
Amid the back-and-forth, and on at least two occasions, Conway appeared to joke that Cuomo was mansplaining or manterruptting her: “I think it’s kind of sexist the way you’re conducting this interview … What is it about powerful, articulate women on TV that bother you as guests?”
CUOMO: “I gave you more time than anyone else would.”
CONWAY: “No, you gave yourself a lot of time because you talked pretty much the entire time.”
CUOMO: “I don’t think that’s true, I’ll give you a word count at the end.”
CONWAY: “Well, the guest should have many more words. You know that.”
CUOMO: “No, I don’t.”
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