While Kellyanne Conway has many notable achievements to her credit, she may go down in history for inventing the term alternative facts—a euphemism for some of the Trump administration’s glaringly false assertions. Although many commentators have discounted the counselor to the president as a political flack making lame excuses, a group of 15 legal ethics professors think her behavior should not be so easily dismissed. Citing several of Conway’s own untrue statements, they have filed a disciplinary complaint against her with the District of Columbia’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, alleging she has violated the rule prohibiting “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”
As a liberal Democrat, I have no sympathy for Conway’s habitual disregard for truth. As a professor of legal ethics, however, I think this complaint is dangerously misguided and has the potential to set a terrible precedent.
First, the complaint keys in on two specific statements, neither of which had any connection to Conway’s law license. Those statements—her invocation of the nonexistent “Bowling Green massacre” and the false claim that President Obama had once ordered a refugee ban similar to Trump’s—were both made in a clearly political context, one in which overstatements are commonplace.