CNN and other media outlets should judge Donald Trump based on “what’s in his heart” rather than “what’s come out of his mouth,” incoming counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Monday morning, arguing that the president-elect is too often denied a benefit of the doubt that is readily handed out to others.
In particular, Conway said the press should take Trump’s word for it when he says he did not mock a reporter with a disability at a November 2015 rally. Trump appeared to mock New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a congenital condition that restricts his mobility, by spastically moving his arms on stage.
At the time Trump was citing a 2001 Kovaleski article for The Washington Post as evidence for his fictitious claim that thousands of Muslims celebrated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the rooftops of New Jersey. Kovaleski disputed Trump’s account, prompting the then-candidate to move his arms wildly as he said “uhh I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember.”
The incident resurfaced Sunday night at the Golden Globes, where lifetime achievement award winner Meryl Streep called it the “one performance this year that stunned me.” Trump shot back by calling her “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and a “Hillary flunky who lost big.” As he has in the past, Trump denied that he had ever mocked Kovaleski and instead was mimicking a “groveling” reporter backing away from a years-old story.
Amid a back and forth on CNN’s “New Day,” anchor Chris Cuomo suggested that Trump was not deserving of the benefit of the doubt relating to the Kovaleski episode “because he’s making a disgusting gesture on video.” Conway interjected to finish the host’s sentence, that the gestures were “not about that reporter, and that’s just a fact.” Cuomo argued that Trump’s explanation was unbelievable because he had made “a gesture that is so keenly tuned to what Serge’s vulnerability is.”
“You’re saying you don’t believe him. You’re calling him a liar, and you shouldn’t,” said Conway, who argued on CNN’s “New Day” that Democrat Hillary Clinton “was given the benefit of the doubt here constantly” despite the network’s own polling indicating that large portions of the American public believed the former secretary of state to be a liar.
“You have to listen to what the president-elect has said about that. Why don’t you believe him? Why is everything taken at face value?” she asked anchor Chris Cuomo. “You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”