Kellyanne Conway briefly strayed from the White House’s long-standing critiques of the media Wednesday to deliver a rare bit of praise to certain print outlets for what she called improving coverage, bristling especially at the characterization that the president dislikes a top New York Times reporter.
Speaking at the Newseum to The Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff, Conway said she gives the media an “incomplete” grade for their coverage of President Donald Trump’s administration thus far, saying it’s too early to judge. It was likely a more generous grade than several of her White House colleagues would offer.
And though she repeated her complaints from the campaign trail about bias in journalists’ Twitter feeds, Conway said she had noticed some print reporters have changed they way they’ve covered President Trump versus candidate Donald Trump.
"There are some print journalists particularly who have taken the time to try to get to know this president and how he operates and who he is and some of the senior administration officials, and they’re doing much better, in my view, of covering the White House,” Conway said.
Conway seemed to hint that at least one of those journalists was the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman. When Wolff said Trump had told him he dislikes the reporter, Conway said that was “not true” and defended Haberman, who recently interviewed the president in the Oval Office.
"She’s a very hardworking, honest journalist who happens to be a very good person,” Conway said, clearly frustrated.
But Conway also criticized most of the media, especially television, for its herd mentality. The press corps all tend to ask the same questions, Conway complained.
"They judge (the president) according to their pre-disposed beliefs about what motivates him, what his personality is, how he makes decisions, what’s important to him thematically and issues-wise, and I just think a lot of the right questions aren’t being asked. The comfort in sameness has an effect where people are afraid to go first,” Conway said.
Conway also said she disagreed with some of the language used toward reporters by her colleagues, notably White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who declared the media the “opposition party."
"I do want to say that some of the words being used to describe (the press), which you are repeating, I have not used. I think it’s very important in a healthy democracy to have a free and a fair press,” Conway told Wolff. "Part of that democracy too though is to have a presidency, no matter who the occupant that is, shown respect and shown an openness to really cover all the items that he has put forth and his considerable accomplishment in the first 80-some days that have really gone uncovered.”
Asked if there was a disconnect between a White House that has been openly hostile toward the media — but still seems eager to talk to reporters — Conway seemed to jab at some of her colleagues.
"I have noticed if you’re someone who says they never talk to the media, you’re really free to talk to the media as much as you want," she said. "Because no one would suspect you’re talking to the media, which is fascinating.”