Kellyanne Conway was named Donald Trump's campaign manager Aug. 17, 2016, making her the first woman to ever run a Republican presidential campaign. She traveled with Trump throughout his campaign in its last months and advised him, as well as appeared frequently on TV to speak on his behalf.
Conway, 49, is a veteran political operative, who's spent the last three decades advising Republicans on how to appeal to female voters. In fact, she was already doing this for the Trump campaign before he tapped her to be his campaign manager. On Dec. 22, 2016, Conway was named counselor to the president.
"Kellyanne Conway has been a trusted advisor and strategist who played a crucial role in my victory. She is a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda and has amazing insights on how to effectively communicate our message. I am pleased that she will be part of my senior team in the West Wing," Trump said in a statement.
Here are 20 things to know about Conway:
1. She is very well-educated.
Conway graduated magna cum laude from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., earning a degree in political science, according to CNBC. She then studied at Oxford University and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, a prestigious honors society, and later earned a law degree with honors from George Washington University Law School. (She now describes herself as a "fully recovered" attorney.)
2. She's also a former pageant winner.
Conway grew up in Atco, New Jersey, a town in the southern part of the state, not far from Atlantic City. In 1982, she won the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant, according to the conservative news site Newsmax. But, as Conway told Newsmax in 2008, she was not only a pageant winner but also named the World Champion Blueberry Packer, because she spent eight summers packing blueberries on a farm. She was known as the fastest packer.
3. She's married with four children.
Conway married George T. Conway III, a New York lawyer, in 2001. The couple has four children, according to CNN, including twins. Prior to marrying Conway, she was romantically linked to the late Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, according to New York magazine, a Republican lawmaker and actor who starred in Law & Order as well as numerous movies.
4. She's worked extensively with Republican lawmakers.
Conway is president and CEO of the Polling Company, which she founded in 1995. Her company often works with Republican candidates to appeal to female voters and the client list, according to CNN, reads like a who's who of conservative politicians and organizations: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich's former presidential campaign, Reps. Steve King and Michele Bachmann, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, National Rifle Association, and Family Research Council.
One of her clients, Todd Akin, a Republican representative from Missouri, drew sharp criticism during his failed U.S. Senate run in 2012 when he referred to "legitimate rape," saying in a TV interview, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Earlier in her career, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick (her maiden name) appeared on TV frequently to attack the Clintons. (Since the '90s, she's provided commentary on more than 1,200 TV shows.)
5. She was raised by women.
Conway's parent divorced when she was 3 years old, according to Newsmax. "I grew up in a house with my mom and her mom, and two of my mother's unmarried sisters," she explained. "So four Italian Catholic women raised me."
6. She's known Trump for a decade and is now described as "the Trump whisperer."
Conway met Trump in 2006, when she was living in one of his buildings, according to the Washington Post. She even served on the condo board of the Trump World Tower in Manhattan. Trump, she told the Post, was surprisingly hands on, even showing up to meetings to hear residents' concerns. Over the years, the Post continued, Trump would call her to say he'd seen her on TV and ask her opinion on a topic.
The pair met again in March 2015 to discuss his presidential bid. She said Trump offered her a job on his campaign, but she declined over fears of how the public would view the partnership. "Like, 'What are you doing there?'" she said. "Riding on a plane? Whispering in his ear about what he should say to women?"
7. She worked on behalf of Ted Cruz before joining Trump's campaign.
After rebuffing Trump, Conway went to work running a Ted Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise 1, which sought to raise money in support of the candidate, according to CNN. The super PAC was later rebranded in June to Defeat Crooked Hillary, Rolling Stone said. Conway also made the maximum personal donation allowed to Cruz last fall: $5,400, CNN reported.
8. She wrote a book titled What Women Really Want.
In 2005, Conway co-authored the book What Women Really Want: How American Women Are Quietly Erasing Political, Racial, Class, and Religious Lines to Change the Way We Live along with Democratic strategist Celinda Lake. "By delving beneath the radioactive, hot-button issues," the book's Amazon description reads, "Lake and Conway discovered common causes with which women are inventing a new age of opportunity - doing it their way and, in the process, improving life for all Americans."
9. But knows the pollster business is "male-dominated."
“I’ve been in a very male-dominated business for decades,” she told the New Yorker in a fascinating profile. “I found, particularly early on, that there’s plenty of room for passion, but there’s very little room for emotion ... I tell people all the time, ‘Don’t be fooled, because I am a man by day.'"
10. She's pro-immigration reform (or at least was).
Although Trump's campaign has been decidedly anti-immigrant - build a wall, shut down Muslim immigration - Conway has a rather enlightened view on this matter. In 2014, she tried to convince Republicans to embrace comprehensive immigration reform and legal status for undocumented workers, according to CNN. She also co-authored a memo for the pro-immigration group FWD.us that delved into the benefits of creating a pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented workers. She was among 16 Republican pollsters to sign the memo.
11. She was extremely critical of Mitt Romney.
While Romney had been critical of Trump throughout the campaign, the two met Nov. 19 at Trump's Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, and since then, there's been talk that Romney could be appointed as the next secretary of state.
But on Thanksgiving, Conway tweeted that she was receiving a "deluge of social media & private" communications warning against the possible appointment.
Receiving deluge of social media & private comms re: Romney Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as sec of state https://t.co/HDtpjeJTc3- Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) November 24, 2016
She appeared on CNN on Sunday, where she talked about "the number of people who feel betrayed to think that Gov. Romney would get the most prominent Cabinet post after he went so far out of his way to hurt Donald Trump."
She added that she'll fully support whomever President-elect Trump chooses for his Cabinet, but she had concerns about Romney.
"I'm all for party unity, but I'm not sure that we have to pay for that with the secretary of state position," Conway said.
MSNBC and CNBC reported that Trump was "furious" at Conway's comments and that some of Trump's aides were "baffled" and concerned that her comments only served to push "her own agenda." She and Trump both disputed that report. “Kellyanne came to me and asked whether or not she could go public with her thoughts on the matter," Trump said in a statement. "I encouraged her to do so. Most importantly she fully acknowledged there is only one person that makes the decision. She has always been a tremendous asset and that will continue.”
There were other top contenders for the position of secretary of state, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, according to CBS, but Trump ultimately appointed Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, as his secretary of state, which will require approval from the Senate.
12. She is the highest-ranking woman in the White House.
In an interview with Fox News on Dec. 20, Conway said she was moving her family to Washington, D.C., where she might take a job in the Trump White House. A few days later, Trump announced that he would appoint her counselor to the president. The New York Times reported that she would be the highest-ranking woman in the White House.
Conway has said her gender has helped her work with Trump. In a May 2017 interview with Business Insider, she explained that "there’s a femininity that is attached to the way one carries herself or the way one executes on her duties. “I could tell you a great way that my gender has helped me with the president,” she said. “I’m actually unafraid to express my mind, but I do it very respectfully - very respectfully and very deferentially.”
13. She employs terms like "fake news" and "alternative facts."
Conway uses terms like "fake news" and "alternative facts" regularly to obscure the truth. She appeared on Meet the Press on Jan. 22 to say that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lying about the crowd size at the inauguration was just him presenting an "alternative fact."
"Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods," Chuck Todd tells Pres. Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway this morning. WATCH: pic.twitter.com/Ao005dQ13r- Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) January 22, 2017
Her comments went viral in February 2017 when she mentioned "the Bowling Green massacre" in an interview on MSNBC's Hardball - an incident that never occurred. She later tweeted that she meant to say "Bowling Green terrorists," a reference to two Iraq men who were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges, but she had also used the same phrase in an earlier interview with Cosmopolitan.com.
14. She is strongly anti-abortion.
Though she told the Washington Postshe knows women who have had abortions and doesn't judge them, Conway has long been associated with the anti-abortion movement. As a consultant, she advised clients to focus on what they saw on an ultrasound in talking about their positions. “The out-of-sight, out-of-mind mantra that propelled the pro-choice movement for decades is forever gone,” she told the New York Times. She spoke at the 2017 March for Life, an annual anti-abortion rally.
15. She told Fox News viewers to buy Ivanka Trump products.
On Feb. 8, Donald Trump called out Nordstrom in a tweet after the department store said it would stop carrying Ivanka Trump brand clothing and accessories because of lackluster sales. The president said she was treated "unfairly."
The next day, Conway went on Fox & Friends from the White House press briefing room, where she said:
Go buy Ivanka's stuff, is what I would tell you. I hate shopping but I'm going to go get some myself today. It's a wonderful line. I own some of it. I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.
The comment sparked immediate backlash from both Republicans and Democrats, who said Conway crossed a line by advertising the president's daughter's product line.
Jason Chaffett, a Republican representative from Utah and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Conway's actions were "wrong, wrong, wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable."
A former ethics in Obama administration went a step further, saying the comment violated a federal code preventing government employees from using their public office for private gain. “It is contrary to federal law to do what she did,” said Norman Eisen, who worked for the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011.
The White House "counseled" Conway over the comment, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. "Kellyanne has been counseled and that's all we're going to go with," Spicer said during his daily press briefing Feb. 9. "She's been counseled on that subject, and that's it."
But Trump felt that characterization of Conway was unfair because it made it seem like she was in trouble, according to the Associated Press. A White House spokeswoman said Trump believed Conway was "merely sticking up" for his daughter.
Walter Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics, said in a letter dated Feb. 13 that there was "strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct" and she should be disciplined. But on Feb. 28, the White House said in a letter than Conway acted "inadvertently" and "without nefarious motive."
16. She was blacklisted from Morning Joe.
On Feb. 15, 2017, the Washington Post reported that Conway would no longer be booked on MSNBC's Morning Joe. “We know for a fact she tries to book herself on this show,” co-host Mika Brzezinski said. “I won't do it, 'cuz I don't believe in fake news or information that is not true. And that is - every time I've ever seen her on television, something’s askew, off or incorrect.”
On Feb. 6, CNN tweeted that Conway had been offered to them as a guest on State of the Union, but they passed. Conway disputed that claim, saying she couldn't do Sunday shows because of family obligations.
False. I could do no live Sunday shows this week BC of family. Plus, I was invited onto CNN today & tomorrow. CNN Brass on those emails https://t.co/LVOUWIytLK- Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) February 6, 2017
On Feb. 22, a CNNMoney report indicated that she had been "sidelined" by the White House from going on television because her appearances were no longer benefiting the administration. A White House spokesperson said that wasn't true and that this was just a "wild goose chase." That same night, Conway appeared on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News and said, "I’ve ... gobbled up a lot of other people’s TV opportunities so there’s some resentment on the outside, I believe, and folks just trying to use me as clickbait in a headline."
In May 2017, the Morning Joe hosts claimed that Conway would talk up Trump on air only to say she had to "take a shower" and that she was only doing it for the money when the microphone was off. Conway has denied these claims, calling them "absurd."
17. She supports an investigation into whether Trump was wiretapped, despite having no evidence that this occurred.
On March 4, Trump tweeted, without citing any evidence, that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower during the election, and Conway has admitted she doesn't have any evidence either. On March 13, Conway told Good Morning America, "The answer is I don't have any evidence and I'm very happy that the House intelligence committee [is] investigating.” She later clarified that the administration is “pleased” with the investigation and will comment after it is complete.
"What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately," she told New Jersey’s The Record, including "microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. So we know that that is just a fact of modern life." Conway later said that she was talking about surveillance as a general topic, not about Trump Tower specifically.
18. Kate McKinnon portrays her on Saturday Night Live.
Conway has been portrayed both as a voice of reason to Donald Trump and as a fame-hungry Fatal Attraction-style character on Saturday Night Live. She’s played by Kate McKinnon, who also has portrayed Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the show. SNL’s Conway often clashes with CNN anchor Jake Tapper (Beck Bennett), and as the show has gone on, Conway has been portrayed as more desperate than ever to get on the air. The show also spoofed Conway's "Couchgate" incident by having McKinnon pop up in various sketches in a similar pose. The real Conway hasn’t said too much about her character but mentioned after the election, “Kate McKinnon clearly sees the road to the future runs through me and not Hillary.”
19. Her husband, George Conway, was reportedly considered for a prominent role in the Department of Justice.
Multiple sources reported that Trump would likely nominate Conway's husband George Conway to lead the Department of Justice's civil division. According to CNN, if the Senate confirmed him, he "would lead an office that would handle legal challenges to major Trump administration initiatives, such as the controversial travel ban." The Wall Street Journal was first to report the news that the corporate lawyer would likely be nominated, after previously being considered for the position of U.S. solicitor general. Kellyanne and George Conway share a dislike for the Clintons: In his mid-30s, George worked with the team of lawyers representing Paula Jones, a woman who sued President Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. In June 2017, however, George Conway withdrew from consideration, thanking the president and attorney general “selecting me to serve in the Department of Justice” but he saying he had decided that “for me and my family” he would remain in the private sector for now.
20. She had less of a presence on TV in March and April 2017 but resurfaced to discuss Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey.
Though Conway had been notably missing from media (which SNL parodied in a recent skit, "Where in the World Is Kellyanne Conway?"), she appeared on CNN with Anderson Cooper to discuss Comey's removal as FBI director. During her appearance, Conway reiterated that Comey's firing was not due to the current investigation into Russia's role in the recent election and Cooper rolled his eyes when she brought up winning Michigan in the election. (Conway later attributed his reaction to sexism.)
here is anderson cooper rolling his eyes at kellyanne conway pic.twitter.com/duwZIfZ7VP- keely flaherty (@flahertykeely) May 10, 2017
She also told Chris Cuomo that his question about the timing of Comey’s firing was “inappropriate.”
This article was originally published after Conway was named Trump's campaign manager and has been updated. The update also corrects an earlier version that misstated the name of her law school. It is George Washington University Law School, not George Washington University Law Center.
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