On Monday, Kellyanne Conway appeared on NBC’s TODAY, and got into a tussle with hosts Savannah Guthrie and Craig Melvin.
Here’s the set-up. Guthrie was asking Conway about President Trump’s tweets regarding the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, shortly after the London terror attack:
GUTHRIE: “Let’s start right there with this series of tweets. Just a matter of taste and judgment and accuracy, does the president owe the London mayor and apology for tweeting a political attack in the hours after this terrorist incident? And also misleadingly quoting him? Was that a mistake?”
CONWAY: “It wasn’t a political attack, Savannah. And as was buried in that report — that one-sided report — here’s the other side, that the president stands firm with the people of the U.K. He spoke with the prime minister of the [United Kingdom], Theresa May, that same night. And again, yesterday, he announced his support for the U.K. people…
But let me finish. You want to make this about something other than what it’s about. You know, I’m just not going to allow — I’m not going to allow, on the day and a half after terrorists did it again…I’m not going to let him [Trump] be seen as the perpetrator here…”
GUTHRIE: “But Kellyanne, in fairness, he’s setting the agenda; he’s the president. He speaks, the reporters cover what he says…”
CONWAY: “This obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter, and very little of what he does as president —”
MELVIN: “That’s his preferred method of communication with the American [people]. He hasn’t given an interview in 3 weeks. So lately, it has been his preferred method.”
Anything the president says, whether in a face-to-face interview or on social media, should be up for scrutiny. Words are as much a part of a president’s activity as the policy he actually puts in place.
Additionally, Craig Melvin is correct when he notes that the president makes use of Twitter frequently, and as such, his tweets are often the only indicator of what he’s thinking at any given time.
Should the American people take Trump’s tweets seriously? Yes. Especially when he uses the platform to issue a false attack on another high-profile leader, like Sadiq Khan. Trump tweeted the following in the aftermath of Saturday’s terror attack in London:
At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
That sounds pretty bad. However, context is key. The following is Sadiq Khan’s statement in context (emphasis added):
“There aren’t words to describe the grief and anger that our city will be facing today. I’m appalled and furious that these cowardly terrorists would deliberately target innocent Londoners and bystanders enjoying their Saturday night. There can be no justification for the acts of these terrorists, and I am quite clear that we will never let them win…
My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today. You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”
One of two things is true. When President Trump posted his tweet attacking Khan, he either knew what he was saying was false, or he didn’t understand what Khan meant within the context of his larger statement. However you slice it, that’s not a good look — and it’s perfectly justified to scrutinize and criticize Trump for that social media statement.