Jobs don’t get much more thankless than being the person designated to clean up after Donald Trump. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway found that out this morning in a deeply uncomfortable interview with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace focused largely on the GOP nominee’s supposed outreach to African-Americans.
The discussion was civil and measured, but Wallace was unsparing when he asked Conway to account for the way Trump has positioned himself thus far in the race with respect to the black community.
In the past few weeks, he has repeatedly gone before almost all-white audiences to ask for the black vote, simultaneously painting a picture of horrible dysfunction, violence and hopelessness among African-Americans that many in that community say they don’t recognize at all.
Trump, Wallace said, “totally misrepresents what blacks face in this country.” For example, the GOP nominee repeatedly asserts that 58 percent of African-American youth are unemployed.
“It’s actually 19 percent,” Wallace said. “Twenty-six percent of blacks live in poverty — that’s not good — but the vast majority do not. How can Trump address the problem when he doesn’t seem to understand what it really is?”
Conway seemed to allow that Wallace had a point on the statistics, but said, “We’re also taking our message to African-Americans who are concerned about other things.”
Wallace was ready for that as well. “Trump has been running for president since June of 2014. That’s 14 months. How many times has he gone into an American inner city and held an event for a largely black audience?”
“I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you--”
Wallace interrupted, “Let me just say, would you be surprised if the answer is none? Never?”
“No, I would not be surprised Chris,” Conway admitted. “I pledge to you and everybody who’s watching that those events are actually being planned and we’re very excited about them.” She added, “We’re fighting for every single vote and we’re going to leave it all on the field and that includes going where the voters are and taking the case directly to them — ”
Wallace again interrupted, “You say that, the fact is in 14 months he’s never once been in an inner city and held an event for black Americans.”
He then brought up a tweet that Trump sent out on Saturday morning, after the news broke that a cousin of basketball star Dwyane Wade was shot dead in Chicago, apparently at random, while pushing her child in a stroller.
Dwyane Wade's cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2016
Wallace asked Conway if she thought it was appropriate for Trump to immediately politicize a personal tragedy.
“I was pleased that his next tweet expressed his condolences to the Wade family about the death of his cousin,” Conway countered.
It would have been an effective rejoinder if it had been true, but it wasn’t. Trump’s tweet about Wade was sent out not once, but twice. Trump sent it out first at 9:24 a.m. before deleting it and reposting it at 12:29 p.m. In the interim he posted various other tweets. The tweet expressing condolences didn’t go out until 1:48 p.m., more than four hours later — plenty of time for team Trump to recognize the outrage the original had caused.
It likely won’t be the last time Conway has to twist facts and timing to repair damage her boss does to his campaign with unexpected outbursts and extraordinary insensitivity. As the interview wound down, she repeatedly referred to the candidacy of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a “hot mess” — but after what she had just been through, it looked less like description than projection.