On Tuesday, CNN's Jake Tapper interviewed Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, in a contentious segment that at some points seemed more like reality television than headline news. But headline news it was, as Tapper challenged Conway to address claims of fake news and nonexistent coverage that the president and his inner circle have levied against the mainstream media in recent weeks. Video of Tapper's interview with Kellyanne Conway showed him asking the White House official bluntly, "Is CNN fake news?"
In the full interview, which Tapper tweeted, he and Conway spoke about everything from Betsy DeVos' Senate confirmation to Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin to last week's violent attack in Quebec City. Of all the topics covered, it was the discussion of the Trump administration's relationship with the media that seemed to get the most attention. Tapper pointedly asked Conway to respond to some of the administration's claims, including a statement from Trump that criticized the media for supposedly not covering terrorist attacks.
He was saying the media does not cover these stories because we don’t want to cover them because we have some sort of agenda. That’s what he was suggesting, and it’s offensive, given the fact that CNN and other media organizations have reporters in danger right now in war zones covering ISIS, and I just don’t understand how the president can make an attack like that.
In response, Conway suggested that some media coverage downplays the threat of terrorism. "There seems to be some coverage, maybe not here, but definitely elsewhere, that somehow terrorism is not a big problem or somehow national security is all taken care of," she said.
Of course, the topic of fake news also came up. "Are we fake news, Kellyanne? Is CNN fake news?" Tapper asked. Conway assured him that she didn't think CNN was fake news, but she reiterated her administration's refrain that fake news does exist. "I think there are some reports... that are not well-researched and that are sometimes based on falsehoods," she said.
Surely, fake news is a problem within some parts of the media. In fact, there's reason to believe that Trump may have benefited from fake news during his presidential campaign. But as Tapper pointed out on Tuesday and others have pointed out before him, the Trump administration has a tendency put out its own falsehoods.
For instance, earlier today, President Trump made a quote about the murder rate being at the highest level it’s ever been in 47 years. He said that and he said nobody in the media reports on that. There’s a reason that nobody in the media reports on that: It’s not true.
Last month, Conway found herself facing a similar challenge from NBC's Chuck Todd. Todd asked Conway to respond to Press Secretary Sean Spicer's inaccurate claim that the inauguration crowd was the "largest audience ever." Conway then coined the term "alternative facts" to explain Spicer's statement. Todd didn't let her get away with that, saying, "Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods."
In that exchange, Conway seemed spiteful, suggesting that the Trump administration may consider limiting the media's access to its spokespeople if such criticisms continued. "We're going to have to rethink our relationship here," she said at the time. On Tuesday, she seemed much more gracious, repeatedly expressing appreciation for CNN's interview invitation. Perhaps that's because CNN reportedly refused to interview Conway on Sunday because of concerns about her credibility. Either way, it seems the relationship between the Trump administration and the mainstream media won't be improving anytime soon.