Less than 24 hours after The Washington Examiner released audio of Kellyanne Conway berating one of its journalists, the presidential counselor tried to discredit anyone who interpreted her remarks as a threat, warning, “If I threaten someone, you’ll know it.”
“I never threaten anyone. Don’t use those words,” Conway told reporters at the White House on Friday. “I didn’t threat. It’s not a threat. I never threatened her.”
The conservative paper on Thursday published the audio recording and transcript of the call in which Conway lashed out at breaking news reporter Caitlin Yilek for an article about Conway reportedly being considered as President Donald Trump’s next chief of staff. Yilek wrote that “Conway has been in the middle of Trump’s barbs with her husband,” attorney George Conway, an ardent critic of the president.
Conway tore into the reporter during the phone call for mentioning her husband, saying, “If you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here.”
“If it has nothing to do with my job, which it doesn’t, that’s obvious, then we’re either going to expect you to cover everybody’s personal life or we’re going to start covering them over here,” Conway added.
Examiner editor in chief Hugo Gurdon, in a statement after the paper released the recording, accused Conway of “abusing, bullying and threatening” Yilek during the call, which started as an off-the-record discussion between the reporter and Conway’s assistant, Tom Joannou, before Conway jumped on the line. Many other media outlets, including HuffPost, characterized Conway’s remarks as a threat.
Conway, confronted Friday by reporters asking whether it was “appropriate to threaten that reporter,” said her comments were misconstrued.
“Excuse me, don’t use that word if it’s not true. Do not,” she said. “If I threaten someone, you’ll know it.”
Asked repeatedly what she meant with her remark about personal lives, Conway suggested it was “very obvious,” adding, “Who cares?”
“I still didn’t get an answer from her, which was [to] the essential question, which was, why do you call yourself a breaking news reporter if you’re not writing breaking news and you’re not even being a reporter? Don’t characterize the way I feel without ever having met me, talked to me or called me.”
Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that Trump is considering replacing his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, with Conway, though the president later denied that on Twitter. Kellyanne Conway notoriously avoids addressing her husband’s ongoing Twitter battle with Trump, and has reacted angrily before to questions about their evident political differences.