“Look, this is also the natural byproduct if you have images of the president being shot in rapper's videos, being assassinated in a production there in New York City, the picture of a severed head,” Conway said.
This was her commentary on the media:
I did a really clever thing: I went back and looked at exactly what was being discussed on all the TV shows, except yours, at 7:09 a.m. on Wednesday, when this happened, and it's a really curious exercise. Because as Steve Scalise was fighting for his life and crawling into right field in a trail of blood, you should go back and see what people were saying about the president and Republicans at that very moment.
Others, like former Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, have pointed fingers at the media, but Conway's remarks represent a first from a White House official.
I performed Conway's “curious exercise,” reviewing the content of non-Fox cable morning shows early in the 7 o'clock hour on Wednesday.
MSNBC's “Morning Joe” led off that hour with a montage of the many times Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he couldn't remember something during congressional testimony on Tuesday.
“This is obviously not a guy you'd want as a partner on 'Jeopardy,'" Joe Scarborough quipped. “He doesn't remember anything. You certainly wouldn't want him to be your lawyer in a court.”
“How about your attorney general?” Mika Brzezinski replied.
“He's the attorney general of the United States, Joe, and off of those answers, you wouldn't want him to do a house closing for you,” Mike Barnicle added.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) June 14, 2017
At the same time, panelists on CNN also were picking apart Sessions's testimony, focusing on his refusal to answer certain questions about conversations with President Trump, which had frustrated members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Here's a representative exchange between “New Day” host Alisyn Camerota and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin:
TOOBIN: I thought legal position was just clearly wrong. The executive privilege belongs to the president. Congress has a right to investigate executive branch matters. The only way you are supposed to be able to decline to answer questions is if the president instructs you: “I believe these conversations are covered by executive privilege, and you must not answer.”CAMEROTA: There's no preemptive executive privilege, which is what he was saying.TOOBIN: Exactly. And there's no preserving executive privilege for later. You either exercise it or you don't. And what his failure to answer did, it gave the president a double benefit. It kept the information from the Congress that they wanted. But it also saved the president the political heat of exercising executive privilege. Because that is something that Trump might have been criticized for or certainly would have been criticized for. But he didn't do it.
Was the coverage on CNN and MSNBC critical of the Trump administration? Certainly. “Mocking” would be a fair characterization of the tone on “Morning Joe.”
But it is terribly unfair to suggest that this kind of commentary and analysis is over the line or, worse, an incitement to violence. Offering a legal opinion of Sessions's testimony or saying that he would make a lousy “Jeopardy” contestant is well within the bounds of responsible criticism.
Conway's broader point about overheated political rhetoric and violent imagery in popular culture has merit. But she is using the shooting to cast the everyday work of journalists, whose job it is to hold powerful people and institutions accountable, as reckless.