After CNN refused to put counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway on the air Sunday, citing concerns about her credibility, Conway returned to the network on Tuesday. Her interview with Jake Tapper was an instant classic, highlighted by a lengthy debate about media coverage.
TAPPER: Joining me now live from the White House, counsel to the president Kellyanne Conway. Kellyanne, thanks for joining me, and congratulations. The president's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, was confirmed today. Vice President Pence had to be the first VP ever to cast a tiebreaking vote on a cabinet nominee, and now the reason that happened is because two Republican senators opposed soon to be Education Secretary DeVos, the first time any Republican senators have voted against any Trump nominee. Can you understand their stated concerns, these Republican senators, about what they perceive to be a lack of experience with the public school system?
CONWAY: Yes. I respect the concerns, and I'm glad that they made them transparent and public. I think that's part of a healthy democracy. We run a very big tent party here in the Republican Party, Jake. There will be disagreements. I'm very pleased that Vice President Pence cast that tiebreaking vote and that Secretary DeVos will be sworn in just across the way here in the vice president ceremonial room at 5 p.m. today, and that she'll get on with the business of executing on the president's vision for education.
He's made very clear all throughout the campaign, and as president, he wants to repeal Common Core. He doesn't think that federal standards are better than local and parental control, for example, and he respects the fact that although public education works for many children in this country, including mine, it doesn't work for everyone, and that children should not be restricted in terms of their education opportunities just by their Zip code, just by where they live. We've got to look at home schooling and charter schools and school choice and other alternatives for certain students. And so I think Secretary DeVos will be a very credible voice in that progress.
TAPPER: A lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill were also upset when President Trump was asked about Vladimir Putin being a killer, and the president said the U.S. has quote, “got a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?” unquote. And then he explained he was talking about U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq. Now to be clear, Vladimir Putin is a human rights abuser, responsible for deaths in Ukraine, Georgia and Syria, not to mention curious murders of his political opponents and journalists. Is President Trump really equating the war in Iraq with what Vladimir Putin does?
CONWAY: No. He's just answering the question as asked. And I think a lot of this stems from the fact that there just seems to be charge and accusation after charge and accusation that somehow President Trump and Vladimir Putin are BFFs. That is not true. He made very clear, I think most recently and most vividly, at his joint press conference with the prime minister of the U.K., Theresa May, that he, President Trump, hardly knows Vladimir Putin. And he said that day, Jake, and I think that's what we should all refer to here — he said that day that perhaps he'll have a — it's possible to have a good relationship with Vladimir Putin. It's possible that he won't.
But if we can come together on big issues vexing this world, like defeating radical Islamic terrorism and pushing back ISIS, which is on the advance, then he will join with other countries that wish to do that, including President Putin. And they've had a couple of phone calls since he was elected president, and he will continue to speak to many leaders around the globe.
TAPPER: But in that interview, he seemed to be suggesting moral equivalence with Putin's Russia and the United States.
CONWAY: No, I don't think it's a moral equivalence, Jake. And what it is, really, is stating two different opinions on two different matters. He — he was making the point to Bill O'Reilly, and I think that you're characterizing it correctly, that he was thinking about the war in Iraq. And in that regard, I think people should make the judgment for themselves.
TAPPER: Have they spoken again since last Saturday?
CONWAY: Not that I'm aware of, no, I don't believe so.
TAPPER: I want to play that clip again in which President Trump yesterday was talking about media coverage of terrorist attacks. Let's roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You've seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: After he said that, the White House released a list of the attacks that he was supposedly referring to as, in his words, “not even being reported.” I want to put up some footage of CNN reporters covering the attacks on that list. I spent two weeks in Paris in 2015 reporting on the attacks. We also see on the screen dozens of my colleagues, Alisyn Camerota, covering the bombings in Brussels. Chris Cuomo and Anderson Cooper reporting on the supermarket attack in Paris. Brooke Baldwin covering the attack in Nice. Victor Blackwell reporting on the shootings in San Bernardino. Kellyanne, CNN and other media organizations cover terrorism around the world all the time. Saying that we don't cover terrorism, that's just false.
CONWAY: What the president is saying there, Jake, is that there are other attacks that don't get as much coverage. Obviously the very sad incidents that you related were, frankly, CNN did amazing coverage for weeks at a time. I saw you all there on the ground doing that and telling the human interest stories and the tragic stories and frankly the involvement of the terrorists in those brutal attacks. Those get coverage. The other ones on the list, not so much. I think his point is twofold —
TAPPER: Those ones were on the list. But the ones I just recited for you were on the list.
CONWAY: Absolutely. And I'm saying the ones that have high casualties, like Nice and Brussels and certainly Paris and the like, those are covered extensively by all media outlets as well they should be. It's the other ones on the list, I think he's making two points here. One is that we just can't allow ourselves to become inured to terrorist attacks to see it as the new normal. So if we're not covering all of the many different attacks, that they're all ISIL inspired attacks, in this case, the ones that he was referring to in the list that was generated, as I understand, Jake, then we don't want — we want people to realize that then that's what leads him to want extreme vetting from seven narrowly prescribed countries in a very temporary way.
Number 2, the point that he is making is, according to the Tyndall Report and other sources, we have inordinate coverage on president — excuse me, candidate Trump during the Republican primary, 333 minutes on him, and really, I mean, five times as much coverage on him as these terrorist attacks, and frankly more coverage by the major networks at the very least on Prince's death, the artist named Prince —
TAPPER: Tyndall covers the three network evening news broadcasts. That's not reflective of the entire media.
CONWAY: No, I understand. But I'm trying to tell you, you're asking me why he said this, and I'm responding —
TAPPER: Well your spin about the idea that we don't want to be inured to that, that's a lovely spin, but that's not what he was saying, Kellyanne. He was saying the media does not cover these stories because we don't want to cover them because we have some sort of agenda. That's what he was suggesting, and it's offensive given the fact that CNN and other media organizations have reporters in danger right now in war zones covering ISIS, and I just don't understand how the president can make an attack like that.
CONWAY: There's no question about that. First of all, I want to tell you, I don't intend to spin. I'm crediting the coverage of CNN and your colleagues across the media gave to these high-profile and high-casualty, very sad, very vicious attacks —
TAPPER: They were on the list of under-covered attacks.
CONWAY: As were dozens and dozens of others. But I do know what the president's point was, because I discussed it with him directly. And it's that we need to make sure that people understand that what was stated by Hillary Clinton, Secretary Clinton, her convention speech, these are our determined enemies, is a really light way of referring to radical Islamic terrorism. He's willing to name it, and it was a big piece of his campaign. And frankly, Jake, if you look at the polls, including CNN's polls, national security and terrorism were important issues to many Americans.
He made it a point to show real distinction there and he wants to show a point as president in the real distinction. Because there seems to be some coverage these days, maybe not here, but definitely elsewhere, that somehow terrorism is not — it's not a big problem. Or somehow, national security is all taken care of, and that's just not true. And I think when you're talking about his extreme vetting, he is making the point that that is in response to the threat of terrorism globally.
TAPPER: I don't — I don't know who was making the case that terrorism is not a serious problem, though I do appreciate your citing a CNN poll. President Trump was clearly saying that the media does not cover terrorist attacks that we clearly cover, and he was saying we don't do it because we don't want to do it and because we have some sort of ulterior motive in that. That's not what you're saying right now, but that is what he's saying.
But while we're on the subject of not addressing a terrorist attack, I want to ask you — in Quebec City last week, a white, right-wing terrorist opened fire on a mosque, a mosque filled with innocent men, women, and children. Six people were killed. President Trump has not said or tweeted one public word about this. You want to talk about ignoring terrorism? Why hasn't the president offered his sympathy to our neighbors in the north?
CONWAY: I know he's sympathetic to any loss of life. It's completely senseless and it needs to stop, regardless of who is lodging the attack. We, of course, are very sad about loss of life here. And he is talking about trying to stop terrorism in people who want to do harm to this country, and I'm sure in the case of our neighbors to the north, I'm glad that the prime minister of Canada is coming here next year — next week, excuse me. I'm sure they'll talk about that if he's coming soon, as I understand.
But the fact is that he — I will ask him. He doesn't tweet about everything. He doesn't need to comment about everything, but I can tell you that the entire point that I do think has been misinterpreted many places about why he wants extreme vetting, in this case temporary and through seven very narrowly prescribed countries, that the Obama administration, President Obama's administration in Congress thought needed more quote, serious screening. He is doing that in response to what he sees and he hears in his briefings as the advance and the continued threat of terror attacks, not unlike the one that you're citing to our friends in the north. And of course, put us on record as always being sad about the senseless loss of life.
TAPPER: He tweeted when there was an attack at the Louvre Museum where nobody was killed. I don't understand why he wouldn't tweet when six Canadian citizens were murdered, except for the fact that the undercovered document that the White House distributed the other day — last night, rather, also did not mention any attacks other than those committed by Muslim terrorists. And obviously radical Islamic terrorism is a big problem, but there are all sorts of kinds of horrific terrorism that take place. We saw some of that in South Carolina recently. And I guess the question is, are these victims any less dead than the ones killed by Islamic radical terrorists?
CONWAY: No, not at all. And of course, Jake, you're right. If you look back at Orlando, Omar Mateen was born in this country, and that was an incredible — unspeakable tragedy, 49 innocent lives taken at the Pulse nightclub. But I'm glad that we're all at least in agreement, it seems, that this is an issue that will continue, that this president says, and whether it's the lawsuits currently pending, the hearing tonight, or really litigation on the merits, ultimately, that he believes his executive order is not just within his authority, but also his duty and responsibility to do what he sees best to try to protect the lives and the safety of Americans. It's temporary, it's narrowly prescribed. There are some 43 or more countries that are majority Muslim that are not on the list, and this is a list that was put forth first by —
TAPPER: I know, by the Obama administration and Congress, absolutely.
CONWAY: Well certainly because they thought that you needed quote, I think it was quote, “stricter screening” or something —
TAPPER: Right, but they didn't say shut down immigration from those countries. They just said they needed stricter screening and they put stricter screening measures into place. I guess what I'm getting at here is, there's a larger campaign being waged by President Trump and by the White House to undermine the credibility of everybody in the news media except for certain supportive outlets.
For instance, earlier today, President Trump made a quote about the murder rate being at the highest level it's ever been in 47 years. He said that, and then he said, nobody in the media reports on that. There's a reason that nobody in the media reports on that: It's not true. The murder rate is not at the highest rate it's been in 47 years. It spiked a little, it went up a little, but it's still much, much lower — it's 4.9 people per 100,000. That's dwarfed by the murder rates in the 1990s and before that in the 1980s. Facts are stubborn things. And to say that we're not reporting something that happens not to be true, therefore we're not to be trusted, that's a problem.
CONWAY: Well, Jake, if I can take the broader issue of our relationship with the media, I mean I'm among, if not the most open press person in the White House. I'm now being attacked by the media, including networks that are familiar to you, and I'm just going to keep soldiering on. I mean, I came to this White House to serve this president who's serving people. I have in my portfolio here veterans. I have women and children. I have opioid use, and we're working on all of that. I sat in on the sheriff's round table today. I sat in on the veterans affairs.
And I know that's something near and dear to your heart, because I see you often give voice and visibility, lend your considerable platform to our fallen soldiers and to our brave men and women in uniform. On that, we agree. And if we can find areas of agreement, give me a call, because I sat in on that, I sat in on a similar meeting in Mar-a-Lago over the holidays, a working session. We had some of the top minds, the top minds and leaders in health care here to the White House today so they can advise specifically on veterans affairs —
TAPPER: You're not —
CONWAY: Not a single person there said, oh, President Obama didn't — nobody said that. It was basically, how do we move forward so that the structure is better, the responsiveness is better — I can't imagine anybody disagrees with President Trump when he says, if we don't take care of our veterans, who are we really as a nation?
TAPPER: That's not addressing what I just talked about. What we're talking about is the fact that the White House is waging war on people who are providing information, sometimes risking their lives to do so, saying that nothing we say is true. All of it is fake. I would much rather be talking to you about veterans issues. In fact, when it comes to the Trump administration, I would much rather be covering immigration. I would much rather be covering trade. And I would much rather be covering draining the swamp and counterterrorism.
But instead, every day, there are these sprays of attack and sprays of falsehoods coming from the White House. It would be better if they were not coming from the White House, for me and for you.
CONWAY: Agreed. And let me just say, it has to go both ways. I mean, I do, Jake, I sincerely don't see a lot of difference in coverage from when he was a candidate and when he became the Republican nominee, the president-elect, and indeed the president. Some outlets, some people cover him the same way, and it doesn't have a great deal of respect, I think, for the office of the president's current occupant.
All I would say is, biased coverage, people talk about that. I think bias is easy to detect, and it's really in the eye of the beholder. What I would put an olive branch out to you and your network is, how about more complete coverage? In other words, he's issued 20 or 21 executive actions since he took office and it seems like we're covering one of them most days. I would love to talk to you about —
TAPPER: One of them?
CONWAY: — the human impact of opening up the Dakota and Keystone pipelines —
TAPPER: It caused tremendous chaos and confusion at airports all around the world. There is now a court case with your Justice Department. It's probably going to take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course it's a huge story.
CONWAY: No, it is, but there are other stories. I'm just trying to, again, reach out and say, when we start doing opiate use, you know, in a very meaningful way along with legislature's law enforcement, the governors — talk about a bipartisan if not nonpartisan issue, the veterans, then I really feel like my big comment is that this White House and the media have joint custody of our country for perhaps the next eight years. And count me as somebody who very much wants to find a way to make that work.
But at the same time, I do have to say when we read certain words being used to describe the president of the United States — it's never been done. It wasn't done about President Obama. It wasn't done about either President Bush, President Clinton, because people have a certain respect for and recognition of the dignity for the office of the president. And so I am beseeching everybody to cool it down a little bit. Look, there are some stories that are false. There are some stories, I read them, I'm like, who are they talking about? Where does this happen? We're here serving in the White House —
TAPPER: Have you or President Trump ever said anything incorrect? Have there been any falsehoods coming from your mouths?
CONWAY: Absolutely. I did this past weekend. I regretted it tremendously, because I used the wrong word to describe something several times, and I'm sorry because I've spoken literally millions of words on TV, I'm sure. I've been on CNN over a thousand times in my career, I'm sure.
TAPPER: You're referring to the Bowling Green massacre.
CONWAY: Yes, I am. Because I felt really badly about that. And I am glad that I — I felt badly about that and I apologize and I rectify. But I want to say something else about that. I'm very happy to have raised awareness. I'm told by colleagues at ABC that by Friday, the highest trending article there was an article from three years ago on ABC.com because it was what I was referring to, and I was referring to two Iraqi nationals who came to this country and are still in jail. Part of al-Qaeda. I'm glad to have raised awareness and sorry that I did it inartfully —
TAPPER: You cited a massacre that didn't happen. You said the media didn't cover it.
CONWAY: No, no, what I mean is the media didn't cover the masterminds. The massacre happened in Iraq. The masterminds were here.
TAPPER: The media did cover the masterminds.
CONWAY: A little bit at the time. But again, you're not covering it in terms of the extreme vetting. In other words, the judge — this is an important point. Yesterday, the AP had a fact-check story. I thought it was really well done. And I'm sure CNN covered it, Jake, but it's really important because the judge in the Seattle case, Judge Robart, asked the attorney, hey, how many — how many people have been arrested since 9/11 from these seven countries? Would have been subject to this extreme vetting, and she said, I don't know. And he said, I'll tell you the answer: zero. That's false. It is not zero. The two guys at Bowling Green qualify. A guy in Texas. It's not true.
TAPPER: But Kellyanne, I guess the problem is, it is very difficult to hear criticisms of the media for making mistakes, and certainly the media makes mistakes. But it's very difficult to hear those criticisms from a White House that has such little regard, day in, day out, for facts, for truth and who calls us —
CONWAY: That's not completely fair.
TAPPER: — who calls us fake news for stories that they don't like.
CONWAY: Well, Jake, let me just say, we have a very high respect for the truth, and I can only speak for me, and I'm sorry that I misspoke. It wasn't like I was trying to get people to believe something that existed that didn't. That's easy to figure out even though the network I was on —
TAPPER: You cited it a couple times before that one interview. You know that.
CONWAY: Well, I was misquoting. I should have said masterminds. I've talked about all that. But let me just say this on the broader point. That we have a high regard for the facts. But I want you to see some of the other facts that we're doing. The wages that are being boosted, the jobs that are being created, the people that text and write and email and stop us everywhere just to say, thank you. It's a big country out there. You know that. You've covered it. It's a huge country out there of people who not just voted for him, but believe that he's going to improve their lives.
TAPPER: Sure, millions of Americans, absolutely.
CONWAY: I believe when you and I perhaps sit down and do the first 100 days, or first six months, or first year in office, you will find very quickly there are people in this country who feel like their lives have improved because Donald Trump was the president. That's how presidents are judged over time, and that's how the — I think it's just based on the accomplishments.
We're here — I'm personally here, and a lot of other places, because of those people. And, so, look. I hear you completely, and Sean Spicer is out there every day doing his press briefing. I'm happy to have the platform and CNN and other places to explain and to talk about what we're trying to do inside the White House.
TAPPER: Are we fake news, Kellyanne? Is CNN fake news?
CONWAY: I don't think CNN is fake news. I think there are some reports everywhere, in print, on TV, on radio, in conversation, that are not well researched and are sometimes based on falsehoods. All the (inaudible) stories, I can't even tell you. Think about how small our staff was and how small our budget was for a presidential campaign, Jake, that succeed and saw things other people didn't see. We breathe each other's oxygen in the foxhole. We were all very close. And all the palace intrigue stories for a White House that's just constant action, constant movement — they're just not true. And they're actually beside the point and hurtful. But I just, I do want to say this —
TAPPER: If you think people behind you don't leak, I'm sad — I will sadly disabuse you of that notion.
CONWAY: I'm sure that's the case. But let me say something I think more pointedly since you're talking to me, and I'm taking responsibility for something I said, and I'm trying to reach out and say I am very open press. I put out the olive branch. I'm on your show, very much appreciate you having me and inviting me to be here. Just last week — just last week when I was surrounded by a firestorm, a very prominent editor, very prominent editor who is a contributor on different cable news stations, very prominent editor of a left-leaning site, outlet, emailed me and said, “I'm about to run a story about your tweet on the Holocaust remembrance statement, but I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond.”
And I literally — I was at my daughter's play. She was very (inaudible); she was very good. And I emailed back. I said, “Did I tweet about that?” And then he emailed back and said, “I'm so sorry. I'm hanging my head in shame. You carry on helping to run the country.” That was a fake account. I'm told there's 10, 12, 15 parody accounts on Twitter about me, and people respond. Now, I could have —
TAPPER: So it never aired? It never ran.
CONWAY: Right, but remember, because I —
TAPPER: But the bigger issue with the Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, of course, was that it didn't mention Jews.
CONWAY: But you're talking about fake news. It's the presumptive negativity about us. It's always believing there's something negative, there's some nefarious motive —
TAPPER: It didn't run. I can't really work up much sweat about a story that didn't run.
CONWAY: Hold on. It didn't run because I got in the middle of it, but I'm not revealing his name because I know firsthand what it's like to have all the haters descend upon you.
TAPPER: I'm glad that reporter did his job and reached out to you before publishing anything.
CONWAY: Well, not everybody does. There was an article in the Daily Caller this week that I commend to everyone which basically says, the media's errors are starting to pile up in the Trump administration, and it lists six or seven things that were said as fact that are just wrong, and people had to retract them. That's human nature. But it has to —
TAPPER: How about the president's statements, Kellyanne? How about the president's statements that are false, like the murder rate is the highest it's been in almost half a century? False. How about the fact that the media doesn't report on terrorist attacks? False. I mean, you can talk about some jerk with some website making a mistake or almost making a mistake.
CONWAY: He's not a jerk. He's a friend of ours.
TAPPER: All right, he's a very sweet guy. But you can talk about somebody almost making a mistake and not doing it. I'm talking about the president of the United States saying things that are not true, demonstrably not true. That is important and arguably more important than whoever reached you at your daughter's play.
CONWAY: Well are they more important than the many things that he says that are true that are making a difference in people's lives? I just think we want —
TAPPER: They distract from them. They distract from the things he says.
CONWAY: If they're covered, they do. And I think — look, I think I was handed a fact sheet that perhaps the president was referring to when he talked about that today with the sheriffs, which by the way was an unbelievably productive, moving listening session that I attend. When he talks about the 47 years and the rate, I'm handed the information, I think you referred to it as well, that we have had an increase from 2014 to 2015.
TAPPER: Yes, I said that.
CONWAY: — in rates of murders and assaults. I'm probably looking at the same data you are. And so he may have —
TAPPER: It's FBI crime reports. It's — to say that there was a spike in murder rates between 2014 and 2015 is true. To say, and we need to bring that down and we need to have law and order, all that, fine. He said it's the highest murder rate in 47 years and the media doesn't report. And, again, Kellyanne, the media doesn't report it because it's a lie, because it's not true. And for the president to say that is — I can't even wrap my head around it. I'll give you the last word, and then I know you have to go.
CONWAY: I'm fine. I'm having a good time. Thanks again for having me. I think that I will discuss it, but I think he is relying upon data perhaps for a particular area. I don't know who gave him that data, but I will tell you about the sheriff's roundtable. This is the part where I'm talking about complete coverage. That was just an amazing — some of those sheriffs, it was — we, we allowed the media in there the entire time. It was the president's idea. He even invited the media into the Oval Office while the sheriffs came in there to take some pictures.
But at the actual listening roundtable, which was the most important piece of this, we heard from sheriffs who said they sat in those exact seats six months ago in a different administration, and they felt this time there was a president who actually asked them, “What do you need? What is rankling you in your communities?” And we heard to a person everything from asset forfeiture to opiate use, probably the most commonly stated theme, which, of course, I'm happy to have a piece of that in my portfolio here.
We're going to be rolling that out very soon. It's something the president made a centerpiece of his campaign. He's greatly concerned about it. We will be working with law enforcement, people on both sides of the aisle, families who have victims, who talk about issues that.
TAPPER: I would love to cover all of that, Kellyanne.
CONWAY: Thank you.
TAPPER: I would love to cover all of that. The attacks on the press, the attacks on judges, the falsehoods, all that makes it very difficult. But I would love to cover all of that with you.
CONWAY: Thank you.
TAPPER: Kellyanne Conway, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.
CONWAY: Thanks, Jake.