Cut Kellyanne Conway Some Slack

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, received national backlash last week after a photo of her sitting with her feet on the Oval Office couch emerged. She was criticized for disrespecting the White House’s guests and acting unprofessionally.

The picture shows Conway kneeling on the couch and using her phone while the President talked to representatives from historically black universities. It was later revealed that she was looking at her phone to review a picture she had taken of the group.

While Conway has said many outrageous things during her short time as Counselor — notoriously coining the term “alternative facts” as a euphemism for lies and attempting to pass off the fabricated “Bowling Green Massacre” terrorist attack as truth — nitpicking her non-political actions is just as disrespectful as people claim her couch etiquette is.

First of all, attacking her on a personal level is petty and does not belong in political discourse. While jokes about politicians’ lives seem to be more than welcome in the current climate and are usually pretty entertaining (Ted Cruz, anyone?) they move us further from professional debates and closer to childish shouting matches. I find that discussing the political beliefs of politicians is helpful when critiquing their ability to complete a certain duty. If I think someone is the right person to hold an office, she will get my support regardless of how uncomfortable she looks sitting on a couch.

This sentiment and the people who adhere to it make personal attacks as useless as they are catty. Personal quirks are one of the least important factors of a politician’s leadership ability and should not be the deciding factor of someone’s support. I have yet to meet anyone who bases their voting habits purely off of information on candidates’ personal lives, but let it be known that if you do, you should probably just skip the ballot next time.

Instead of using stray observations to persuade people of a politician’s downfalls, we should focus on their
failures to perform their job correctly. It is hard to defend Conway when alternative facts are brought up because there is no dispute that her comments were a tacky way for a politician to try and excuse lying. But attempting to convince people of her malpractice by way of her couch posture is much harder to justify.

Beyond being completely inappropriate for the political realm, the personal attacks on Conway have gone too far and for too long. Even other politicians are joining in on the jokes, with Cedric Richmond, a Democratic Congressman from Louisiana, lewdly remarking that she “looked really kind of familiar” on the couch. Beyond being hypocritical, inappropriate, and coming way out of left field, this comment is one of many jokes that takes the Conway joke train too far.

Conway is a gold mine of content at the moment — being almost perfectly impersonated by Kate McKinnon every week on SNL and the internet constantly bringing up her past blunders — but she deserves at least five minutes where she does not have to worry about what the country is saying about her. Her job is stressful, calling her to appear on television almost nightly to repair the damages her colleagues cause in the daytime. She is basically playing a very unlucky game of Chutes and Ladders, making small steps towards recovery before getting knocked back to square one by her own screwups and the screwups of her colleagues. She has to be stressed out beyond belief, and her I-stayed-up-all-night-to-study-for-the-final-I-have-in-five-minutes look definitely shows it.

That said, I understand why people make fun of her as often as they do. Conway is that deer on Planet Earth you scream at as she walks directly into the lion’s den. It is terrifying to see her set herself up for destruction as often as she does, but something primal in us wants to see what happens anyway.

As fun and as easy as it is to mock Conway, we should all take some time to ignore how strangely she sits on a couch — if not to respect her, then to preserve her sanity.

Isaac Espinosa is a second-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at imespino@uci.edu.