Kellyanne Conway, coiner of “alternative facts” and counselor to President Donald Trump, made her first appearance on a Sunday news talk show this week after a five-month hiatus, but not much had changed.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Conway faced host George Stephanopoulos’ questions about the steep cuts to Medicaid proposed in the Better Care Reconciliation Act ― the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that Senate Republican leaders released last week and plan to bring to a vote in the coming days.
Her defense was loaded with the same sidesteps and falsehoods she’s been known for since working on Trump’s presidential campaign.
She claimed there were no cuts to Medicaid ― the program that covers tens of millions of poor or disabled Americans ― despite estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the bill would reduce Medicaid spending by more than $800 billion over a decade.
She also exaggerated Senate support for the bill and claimed that able-bodied Americans who may lose their Medicaid can just get health insurance through work, despite most Medicaid recipients working low-paying jobs that typically don’t offer insurance.
The network did not return HuffPost’s inquiries into why it scheduled her appearance after so many months without her on the show.
Once a consistent on-air surrogate for Trump, Conway has faded into the background in recent months. Her disappearance even inspired the “Saturday Night Live” game show sketch “Where in the World Is Kellyanne Conway?” While she still makes some news appearances, her absence from the major Sunday morning talk shows ― one of America’s longstanding news formats known for interviews and roundtables that challenge the political figures who appear ― was particularly noted.
Conway last appeared on one of the Sunday shows nearly five months ago, when she was a guest on “Fox News Sunday” with host Chris Wallace on Jan. 29. Before that, she appeared Jan. 22 on “This Week” and on both CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper and NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Jan. 8.
The Conway blackout came to a head on Feb. 6, when CNN announced it had declined to schedule her the previous Sunday despite the White House offering her availability. Sources familiar with the situation pointed to “credibility” concerns after she cited the “Bowling Green massacre,” a nonexistent terrorist attack, as justification for Trump’s executive order barring citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
The problem with having Conway on these live shows is that it gives hosts little room to call out any false claims.
“Fact-checking an interview live on TV is extremely difficult and requires quick and expert production work,” Poynter’s fact-checking expert Alexios Mantzarlis wrote earlier this year.
To Stephanopoulos’ credit, he challenged many of Conway’s claims on Sunday, but hosts have struggled to do so in the past, Mantzarlis pointed out.
With those difficulties presented by Conway, why bring her on the Sunday shows?
MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski argued last month that it’s a desperate ratings attempt, at least with CNN.
“You’re just getting your little ratings crack, but it’s disgusting,” she said of the rival network. “There’s nothing that she brings to the table that’s honest. Your hosts know it. Your hosts look pained when they interview her because they know they’re just doing politics porn — they’re not doing news. We need to stick to the news.”