Kellyanne Conway: No Benefit of the Doubt

Earlier this week, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway justified President Obama’s 2011 not-actually-a-travel-ban: “I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. … Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Putting aside the fact that Obama didn’t ban refugees from Iraq for six months in 2011, Conway was excoriated for invoking the “Bowling Green massacre”—a terrorist attack that might be “brand new information to people” because it didn’t happen. It’s not real.

Shortly after her interview, Conway said she misspoke and meant to say “terrorists.” Later, in a Fox News interview, she lamented that people were still criticizing her.

If practically anyone else had made this statement, he or she would have received the benefit of the doubt. People misspeak. They make honest mistakes. But Conway’s history doesn’t entitle her to the benefit of the doubt. This is, after all, the Trump surrogate who defended Sean Spicer’s intentional peddling of false information as simply describing “alternative facts.” Given her penchant for lying to the media, Conway doesn’t deserve to have her statement treated as a good-faith mistake. She’s shown that she’s more than happy to tell lies in bad faith. It’s therefore valid for the media, and for all of us, to presume that the “Bowling Green massacre” flub was, once again, her trying to get away with telling a lie, and she wouldn’t have corrected herself until someone forced her hand. Conway—along with most of the Trump administration—has lost the presumption that any errors she makes are honest, rather than bad-faith attempts to lie to the public.