Painful admission: Trump voters tried to tell us that electing him President would solve so many problems so quickly, we’d end up having nothing more substantial to debate than furniture in the Oval Office. Turns out they were right after all! During and after arranging a photograph of a meeting between Donald Trump and leaders from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), White House counselor Kellyanne Conway perched on the couch with her feet underneath her — and news outlets and social media suddenly turned into the Emily Post School of Couch Etiquette:
Kellyanne Conway sparks media storm from Oval Office sofa https://t.co/9oLZYksyjj
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) February 28, 2017
A lot of the attention from news media was on news and social media, as the BBC’s headline and the AP’s report shows:
Conway is seen perched on her knees on the couch with her feet behind her in photos taken Monday while President Donald Trump met with leaders of historically black colleges and universities.
Some Twitter users were quick to highlight the photos as evidence of a lack of respect for the office from Conway and the Trump administration. Other users have countered with numerous photos of former President Barack Obama resting his feet on the office’s famed Resolute desk at various times during his eight years in office.
There are a number of those Obama pictures floating around, but allow me to recall a couple of other historical precedents, too:
Other pictures from the Trump-HBCU event show Conway trying to position herself on the couch in order to get a smartphone picture of the gathering. The White House has its own photographer, of course, but Conway may have wanted a shot for herself — and that’s not an unusual perch for people to use, nor an uncommon method. We may have been taught by our parents not to put shoes on furniture, but Conway’s a grown woman, and it’s Trump’s couch for the next four years. Let he who has not couched a shoe cast the first cushion, or something.
Shouldn’t the meeting itself have been a much bigger story than where Conway put her feet for it? What matters more to Americans outside the Beltway and media bubbles — that Trump pledged to support historically black colleges and universities, or that Conway put her feet on the couch? Imagine the White House’s chagrin at having lost the Aunt Gertrude vote while engaging African-American thought leaders.
Chris Cillizza wonders whether people have lost their minds:
This tempest in a teapot is, in a word, dumb. In two words: incredibly dumb. …
The simple fact is that this is a totally contrived “controversy” born of some people’s blind hatred for Conway and, by extension, Trump and his White House. There is simply no “there” there.
Conway was on the sofa to try to get a good angle to snap a photo. It’s not indicative of anything, or revealing of anything. It’s just someone trying to take a photo.
The upside from this is that we may have reached Peak Freakout with Couchgate. At least, we can certainly hope so. On Twitter, Mother Jones editor Ben Dreyfuss — hardly a conservative — put this in even better historical perspective (apologies for NSFW language):
"How dare Kellyanne Conway disrespect the Oval Office!” —People who rightfully defend Bill Clinton for getting a blow job in the Oval Office
— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) February 28, 2017
By the way, here’s what the news media should have highlighted:
President Trump will sign an executive order to bolster historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on Tuesday. The order will do this by moving the moving the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which was previously part of the Department of Education, back to the White House.
The administration says this action will encourage strategic partnerships with other agencies and outside groups by giving it greater visibility. The United Negro College Fund had requested that Mr. Trump move the Initiative to the White House and be led by a person “who reports to a senior advisor to the president,” according to The Washington Post.
Dozens of HBCU leaders gathered at the White House on Monday where they briefly met Mr. Trump in the Oval Office before meeting with Vice President Mike Pence. The order is a signal that the Trump administration plans to make HBCUs a priority, boosting Trump’s “urban agenda,” a senior White House office told reporters in a briefing.
Have fun burying the lede, folks!