Senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway said on Sunday she felt badly about promoting Ivanka Trump’s jewelry line in a likely violation of federal ethics rules, because “Catholic guilt” and “maternal guilt” always make her feel bad.
“I always feel badly because I’m … you know, Catholic guilt, mother guilt, maternal guilt, counselor guilt,” she said, laughing, in an interview on CBS Sunday Morning. “It’s all there, of course. Of course I felt badly about what happened, because I am here to serve the president, who’s here to serve the people.”
It was an unusual spin on her actions, which the top ethics official in Washington called “a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position” by federal employees.
On 9 February, Conway used an appearance on Fox News as an opportunity to present a “free commercial” for Ivanka Trump’s jewelry line. “Go buy it today, everybody,” she said. “You can find it online.”
Conway’s remarks on Sunday were part of a wide-ranging interview in which she struck back at criticisms of her ethical conduct, fact-free remarks to the media and personal comportment.
Conservative women, she said, face a “triple standard”, as opposed to the double standard facing other women.
“We’re constantly going back to where I sat, the presumptive negativity of what I wore, or what I said, and I do think it’s a triple standard, I hate to tell you,” she said. “Conservative women are held to – are just cast aside many times by traditional feminist outlets and individuals who control a great deal of the media.”
Conway was in part referring to a photograph of her with her feet on an Oval Office couch while Trump met representatives from the country’s historically black colleges and universities. The photo touched off accusations that she was being disrespectful to the office and those present, which she said she did not intend.
But the bulk of the criticisms directed at Conway have had to do with her use and defense of falsehoods.
Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, she said in a TV interview that when press secretary Sean Spicer repeated falsehoods about crowd sizes and protests across the country, he was presenting “alternative facts”. Conway was later criticized for repeated references in interviews to “the Bowling Green massacre”, a supposed terrorist attack in Kentucky that did not occur.
On the subject of “alternative facts,” Conway suggested on Sunday that she had meant to say “alternative investment and additional facts”.
She also questioned why she didn’t receive the same, breezy coverage that the Oscars did after last week mistakenly crowning La La Land as best picture over the actual winner, Moonlight.
“I see mistakes on TV every single day and people just brush them off,” Conway said. “Everybody thinks it’s just so funny that the wrong movie was, you know, heralded as the winner of the Oscars. You say, ‘Well, that’s just all in good fun, things happen.’ Well, things happen to everyone.”
A political pollster by profession, Conway joined Trump’s campaign for the presidency in August, as his third person to oversee his campaign after the departures of Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort. She was widely credited with imposing a measure of discipline on the erratic campaign and finessing Trump’s message to white, suburban women.
Her experience under fire from the media, she said, had taught her women must have “bile in your throat” if they are to run for office or be involved in national politics.
Asked to explain, she said: “Just to swallow so much, that the country looks at you through this negative lens, you know corruption and cronyism and ‘You’re lying’ and ‘You want money and you’re motivated by power’.”
Her repeated trouble with the truth does not seem to have caused her much professional grief. After her “free commercial” for Ivanka Trump’s products, Spicer said she was “counseled” but refused to clarify what “counseled” meant.
Later, the director of the Office of Government Ethics said there was “strong reason to believe that Ms Conway has violated the standards of conduct” and recommended disciplinary action. The White House this week concluded that Conway acted “without nefarious motive or intent”.
CNN briefly flirted with barring Conway from its news shows over her repeated mentions of a nonexistent terrorist attack. But it lifted its supposed ban just a few days later. The episode inspired a Saturday Night Live sketch which cast Conway as a Fatal Attraction-type stalker of the anchor Jake Tapper.
Conway did not have strong words for the skit, which some said was sexist. “I had people right, left and center coming to my quote-unquote ‘defense’, saying it was over the top,” she said. “But it’s also untrue.”
Conway said criticism “hurts my kids more than anything”. She tells her four children, she said, that any critiques of her are just “unconsidered opinion” from people who dislike Trump.
“Something’s got to really bother you that you feel so bent on criticizing someone you hardly know for doing a job that you can’t begin to understand,” she said.
“I can’t let the haters get to me or to the president.”