What’s less surprising: that a top aide to President Trump would go on a Fox News program and plug the line of clothing and accessories of Ivanka Trump — or that a Fox News program would allow her to do so without a hint of opposition? The Erik Wemple Blog is stumped on this one.
Yet that’s precisely what happened this morning. In a nearly 10-minute interview on “Fox & Friends,” counselor Kellyanne Conway spoke on various topics, including the president’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court and the work of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Then the discussion turned toward a story that emerged yesterday via Twitter:
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
Big news everyone. You did this. I am in awe. https://t.co/q9vwmyfpbn
— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) February 2, 2017
In response to an inquiry regarding what Ivanka “is going through now,” Conway went on a long explanation, saying, “I visited with her yesterday. You know, this is a very successful businesswoman twice. Obviously, she has stepped away from it now, but in the past she has helped to run her family’s real estate empire and on the side, she developed another fully unbelievably entrepreneurial wildly successful business that bears her name and I think she has gone from 800 stores to 1,000 stores … you can certainly buy her goods online,” said Conway, nudging the Fox News consumer just a bit. More: “She’s an incredibly confident, creative, talented woman who also supports her father’s presidency and realizes that there are bigger issues.” Then Conway hammered “executives all over the Internet” who are allegedly “using the most prominent woman in Donald Trump’s” orbit to “get to him.”
The upshot? “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I’d tell you,” said Conway with the seal of the White House hanging in the background, just over her left shoulder. “I hate shopping, I’m going to go get some myself today.”
Hold on, Kellyanne Conway, a legitimate news anchor might have said at this point, is it really proper to be using your perch at the White House to promote the business of a family member of your boss? Isn’t that just plain gross? Or perhaps even illegal?
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) February 9, 2017
Legitimate news anchors, however, don’t work at “Fox & Friends.” So co-host Steve Doocy responded this way: “There is that hashtag #BuyIvanka right now,” said Doocy. “But there is that hashtag #GrabYourWallet — is that behind some of this stuff?”
To that inquiry, Conway pooh-poohed the opposition to President Trump, and then returned to her promotional priorities. “This is just — it’s a wonderful line, I own some of it. I’m just going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online,” she said. Wrapping up the interview, Doocy said, “All right, Kellyanne Conway from the briefing room.”
There’s a know-your-anchors dynamic at play here. Had Conway been on CNN’s “New Day” or MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” or “CBS This Morning,” she wouldn’t have felt empowered to so despoil the White House and the airwaves over just a few minutes of QVC-ing. This, however, is “Fox & Friends,” the Donald Trump platform, the place where the real estate mogul was allowed to say the silliest things without opposition every week dating back to 2011. Those weekly call-in chats ended when Trump declared his presidential candidacy, but the relationship has remained warm and unquestioning. Consider the time when Trump peddled that National Enquirer conspiracy theory about Ted Cruz’s father. Here’s how it went down:
TRUMP: And, you know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean they don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it. But I think it’s horrible. I think it’s absolutely horrible that a man can go and do that, what he’s saying there.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Right. There was a picture out there that reportedly shows Rafael Cruz standing with Lee Harvey Oswald —
TRUMP: I mean what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting? It’s horrible.
This is the thing about “Fox & Friends”: The co-hosts are so conditioned to treating Team Trump as pals that they don’t even realize when their own complicity is turning into a bona fide public scandal, as it is now.