Kellyanne Conway’s revelation on live television Sunday that she is a victim of sexual assault came as a surprise to CNN viewers.
It also came as a surprise to Conway herself.
“I didn’t make a decision to reveal that; that just sort of happened. I think had I made a decision I would have articulated it better,” Conway, who serves as counselor to President Trump, said Tuesday at the Atlantic Festival in Washington. “But I don’t plan to speak any further about it.”
Conway’s searingly personal comments came over the weekend when she and anchor Jake Tapper were discussing the political edges of Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. The allegations also land squarely in the #MeToo moment of cultural reckoning, where women have been steeled to reveal private and harrowing experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
Conway has argued there has been a conflation of that movement to use sexual assault allegations as weapons in political-score settling. And that political bent, she said, has led detractors to disregard her experience and personally attack her.
“They don’t want me or someone who works for Donald Trump to have any part of humanity or humility, both of which I possess,” she told Atlantic editor Steve Clemons. “They just don’t, and you know it.”
Conway did not return a request for comment.
In an echo of her Sunday comments, Conway said Tuesday that perpetrators should bear the responsibility for their actions and that she has “great empathy” for victims of rape, sexual assault and harassment.
Conway defended Ford on Fox News shortly after the California psychology professor’s accusations were made public, saying that Ford “should not be insulted, and she should not be ignored.”
Conway’s calls for empathy for sexual assault victims Tuesday were in stark contrast to remarks made by Trump, who hours later attacked Ford and her testimony at length during a Mississippi rally, provoking laughter from the crowd.
The president launched incredulous barbs aimed at gaps in Ford’s timeline of the sexual assault, which she said occurred when she and Kavanaugh were both high school students in the Washington area in the early 1980s.
“ ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it? I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember,’ ” Trump said as he attempted to impersonate Ford onstage.
“I don’t remember,” he said repeatedly.
Ford has said the incident happened in an upstairs room of a home and that she is “100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, although she has acknowledged that her memories of other details of the evening remain unclear.
In a Wednesday appearance on Fox News, Conway defended Trump’s remarks at the rally.
“By Ford’s own testimony there are gaps in her memory; there are facts that she cannot remember,” Conway said. “If those pretending they want to find the truth, don’t say we can’t find the truth when she doesn’t know all the facts.”
Conway has said that Ford’s testimony was compelling. She told Tapper on Sunday that Trump “found her testimony to be credible and compelling,” though she cast doubt that the alleged perpetrator was Kavanaugh.
Josh Dawsey and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.