White House counselor Kellyanne Conway verbally attacked a Washington Examiner reporter on Tuesday over the phone, describing herself as a “powerful woman” and threatening to investigate the reporter’s personal life — all because the journalist mentioned Conway’s husband in a story.
Caitlyn Yilek, a breaking news reporter for the publication, wrote an article on Tuesday regarding Conway’s potential to become President Donald Trump’s next chief of staff, drawing from Bloomberg News’ initial reporting. In the course of the article, Yilek brought up the very public feud between Conway’s husband, George Conway, and the president.
On Wednesday morning, Yilek received a call from Conway’s assistant, Tom Joannou, who requested their conversation remain off the record; however, within moments, Conway got on the phone and initiated a new conversation with no agreement that it would be off the record.
The Washington Examiner subsequently published both audio and a written transcript of Yilek’s conversation with Conway.
Conway’s issue was with a line in Yilek’s article that said the top White House aide had “been in the middle of Trump’s barbs with her husband, George, a conservative lawyer who frequently makes headlines for his criticism of the president.”
Conway said to Yilek: “So I just am wondering why in God’s earth you would need to mention anything about George Conway’s tweets in an article that talks about me as possibly being chief of staff. Other than it looks to me like there’s no original reporting here, you just read Twitter and other people’s stuff, which I guess is why you don’t pick up the phone when people call from the White House because, if it’s not on Twitter or it’s not on cable TV, it’s not real.”
Yilek explained that the initial phone call from Conway’s assistant appeared to come from Egypt, and so she did not answer. She also explained that mentioning Conway’s husband was “relevant context.”
This prompted a disparaging response from Conway: “Do you talk about other people’s spouses in your pieces, ’cause I’ve been looking around, I haven’t learned a single thing from any of your pieces, and I’m just wondering if you routinely talk about peoples spouses.”
At one point, after Yilek offered to have Conway speak to her editor, the Trump official described herself as a “powerful woman”: “Let me tell you something, from a powerful woman. Don’t pull the crap where you’re trying to undercut another woman based on who she’s married to. He gets his power through me, if you haven’t noticed. Not the other way around. And if these are the quote standards unquote at the Washington Examiner, then yes I’d be happy to talk to your editor. But I’ve known your editor since before you were born.”
Conway continued her attack: “You’re still not telling me what compels you to characterize my feelings in your story having never talked to me. You can answer that question without your editors. You don’t have to rely upon the men in your life and pretend somehow by way of reporting that I rely on the men in my life, which clearly isn’t the case.
“Do you think you could have written in there, first, only woman, first woman to run a successful presidential campaign? Do you think you could have described me as somebody who wears red a lot, or is a mother of four, who has been here from day one and has survived all these other people? Or maybe you have an obligation to tell people, well as far as you know, I’m not a leaker, let alone the leaker.”
At the end of the phone call, Conway suggested the White House might investigate Yilek’s personal life as well.
“Listen, if you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here,” she said.