This is at least the third time in eight days that Brzezinski has made a show of her contempt for Conway. The first was on February 6th, when it came out that CNN had declined to have Conway on its Sunday show because of questions about her credibility. Conway claimed on Twitter that in fact she had skipped the Sunday shows that week due to family obligations. CNN replied to that — and so did Brzezinski:
— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) February 6, 2017
The second swipe at Conway came yesterday when Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough went off on how Conway simply isn’t believable and may literally not know what she’s talking about in commenting on White House affairs. “It’s not worth the interview” to have her on, Brzezinski insisted. Today brought round three, as you’ll see below, with Brzezinski accusing Conway of trying to get herself booked on the show personally, a policy Mika insists will no longer be followed. To be clear, this is a senior advisor to the president offering herself to be grilled about the day’s events and, rather than seizing the opportunity to question her, an ostensible news organization is refusing the chance. Is MSNBC no longer interested in journalism? (I know, I know: “It never was!”)
Either way, they’re not the only media outlet weighing whether to take away Conway’s camera time, notwithstanding the fact that nearly every interview she gives ends up being buzzworthy:
An anchor from a different network said Conway hasn’t been invited on the anchor’s show for months, saying the viewer gets “nothing out of her” because “she constantly obfuscates and misrepresents the truth.”
“At best, Conway is low-hanging spinning fruit, sugary but empty. At worst she’s an apparatchik or, as Carl Bernstein puts it, ‘a propaganda minister.’ Neither is good for the republic,” added the anchor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That’s why I’ve chosen not to have her on.”
Brzezinski’s ban is getting all the attention this morning but it’s Scarborough who delivers the heaviest blow in the clip below, I think. It’s not that Conway’s a liar, he claims. It’s that she’s inconsequential. She claims to speak with deep inside knowledge of White House policymaking when, allegedly, she’s not being regularly included in many meetings of the inner circle (Priebus, Bannon, Kushner). That’s how you end up with her telling reporters that Trump has full confidence in Mike Flynn six hours before Flynn resigns. That idea, that Conway is “out of the loop” inside the White House, was also suggested by this recent Politico piece, which describes her as a “queen without an army … dipping in and out of meetings to offer big-picture communications advice” but lacking the sort of meaty policy position she craves, like chief of staff. Everyone who works in media gets called a liar sometimes; getting called ill-informed because you’re second-tier in your own hierarchy is a much harsher criticism.
But is it true, or is undermining her all part of an ongoing Team Trump turf war? Conway is a Bannon ally so the “out of the loop” stuff likely isn’t coming from his camp. Could it be coming from … Priebus’s camp? Remember, Sean Spicer is a Priebus guy from way back, having served as the RNC’s chief spokesman when Reince led the organization. And allegedly things haven’t been smooth lately between Spicer and Conway:
Five … sources think the person behind the leaks [that Spicer might soon be replaced] is Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s ever-visible White House counselor. Though they offer no hard evidence, they say Conway is trying to offload blame for administration setbacks on Spicer to prove she is the more effective public advocate and earn a lasting place in the President’s inner circle.
“She’s clearly guiding a press narrative that he’s not up for the job, and that they’re reviewing other candidates,” one GOP strategist said. “It’s becoming abundantly clear that Kellyanne is making Sean’s job impossible.”
Publicly, the two appear to be locked in a Cold War, issuing not-so-indirect slights at one another across the airwaves. When Spicer was asked last week about the ethics of Conway promoting Ivanka Trump’s clothing line from the White House briefing room, his response was curt: “She’s been counseled.”
The following day, after the President showed support for Conway, she tweeted that Trump “likes ‘counselor’ more than ‘counseled.'”
There’s a big problem with that theory, one noted in the story by Conway herself: She was offered the press secretary job before Spicer was and turned it down, so clearly she’s not trying to replace him herself. On the contrary, the whole reason Conway rejected the job, reportedly, was that she wanted some real policy influence, not just communications work. If it’s true that she’s undermining Spicer, maybe it’s a simple matter of disdain for someone who’s not as good at his job as she thinks she would be — or maybe she’s concerned that Spicer will be good at his job and that he’ll replace her in time as Trump’s go-to surrogate. The point, though, is that if you’re looking for ideas on who might be whispering to Scarborough and Brzezinski about Conway’s not-so-significant role in the White House, the Priebus/Spicer camp is one obvious place to start.
One last thing. Are we now in another Trump/Scarborough Cold War? During the campaign Scarborough was chummy with Trump early, then things soured, then suddenly he was advising Trump informally again after the election, and now he and Mika are bombing Conway on the air every day. Just this morning Scarborough slapped Trump hard on Twitter:
1. Hillary's campaign was awful.
2. Your fawning over Putin is awful
3. Your trashing of the United States of America for Putin is awful. https://t.co/jfItsTiZib
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 15, 2017
Trump’s number-one fan, Sean Hannity, has also been taking swipes at Scarborough lately on Twitter, suggesting further alienation of “Morning Joe” from the White House. Stay tuned.
In lieu of an exit question, a prediction: The “ban” on Conway will be lifted soon assuming it ever takes effect at all. That’s not just because MSNBC won’t be happy about ceding access to Conway to its competitors but because the mainstream media knows that Trump will happily seek out new media as a pipeline to the public if the big TV news outlets start denying him one. It won’t just be Fox News who lands Conway interviews if MSNBC and CNN start shutting her out; it’ll be Breitbart and other right-wing online platforms. Big media already has enough to worry about in losing viewers. Giving the White House an excuse to elevate “alternative media” because it can’t get its top people on the air anymore will only make that problem worse.