On Thursday morning, the Trump transition team announced that former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway will serve as counselor to the president. In that role she’ll be the highest ranking woman in the White House.
A statement released by the transition team announcing the move is boilerplate – “I am pleased that she will be part of my senior team in the West Wing,” Trump is quoted as saying – until it gets around to discussing Conway’s role in Trump’s victory, where it makes the claim that Trump “shattered the glass ceiling for women.”
President-elect Trump’s victory on November 8th also shattered the glass ceiling for women. Conway is the first female campaign manager of either major party to win a presidential general election.
While it’s true that Conway is the first woman campaign manager to preside over a presidential victory, the statement overlooks that Al Gore’s 2000 campaign was managed by Donna Brazile. Like Hillary Clinton, Gore won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College, after the Supreme Court shutdown a Florida recount.
The statement also overlooks the obvious fact that Clinton this year became the first woman nominated as a major party’s presidential nominee and his victory denied her the chance to shatter the “highest, hardest glass ceiling.” Trump scolded her during the campaign for mentioning the historic nature of her candidacy, accusing her of playing the “women’s card.”
Also left unsaid is the fact that the closing weeks of Trump’s campaign were consumed by a sexual assault scandal that developed after a 2005 tape of Trump bragging about groping and forcibly kissing women went public. Asked about that tape during a CNN interview on October 9, Conway dismissed the allegations, citing the fact Trump had never sexually assaulted her and had promoted women in his company.
“I have to assess people based on what I see in totum,” Conway said. “And this is a man I’ve been alone with many times who’s never been anything but gracious and [a] gentleman and elevated me to the top level of his campaign, the way he’s elevated women in the Trump organization for decades, because he respects women.”
In the ensuing weeks, a string of women came forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault. The incidents spanned decades and were corroborated by friends and colleagues the alleged victims confided in at the time.
Trump responded by smearing his accusers as ugly attention-seekers.
Conway was the campaign director during that period of time. She took over in August, replacing Paul Manafort, who was ousted as campaign director amid allegations he took illegal payments from Ukraine’s former pro-Russia ruling party. Manafort got the job in June from Corey Lewandowski, who was dismissed from the campaign after he physically grabbed and pulled a female reporter at a campaign event, leaving visible bruises on her body.
Of the 17 months between Trump’s June 2015 kickoff speech and his November 2016 victory, Conway was campaign manager for just three.
During a University of Virginia-hosted Q and A event last month, Conway – who was named campaign director in hopes of keeping Trump “calm” and increasing his appeal with women – was asked about how she could “rationalize,” as a woman, continuing to work for Trump after the tape went public.
She responded by accusing the questioner of trying to “make news.”
“For you to use sexual assault to try to make news here I think is unfortunate, but it also doesn’t matter because Donald Trump promised he’ll be a president of all Americans,” she said.
Before coming aboard the Trump campaign as a “data and messaging expert” in July, Conway helped conduct some of the flawed polling Trump has invoked to justify his proposed Muslim ban. In her role as counselor, she’ll be responsible for helping Trump “carry out his priorities and deliver his message from inside the White House,” the New York Times reports.