On Wednesday, Conway’s assistant, Tom Joannou, placed a phone call to Caitlin Yilek, a breaking news reporter at the Washington Examiner. The day prior, Yilek had authored a piece about Conway potentially becoming the White House’s next chief of staff in which she mentioned that Trump and Conway’s husband, George Conway, have engaged in a prolonged public spat.
The conversation was meant to be off the record, but soon Kellyanne herself grabbed the phone and gave Yilek a piece of her mind. While the Examiner writer hadn’t been recording the talk with Yilek, she had no such arrangement with Conway and pressed the record button.
"So I just am wondering why in God’s Earth you would need to mention anything about George Conway’s tweets in an article that talks about me as possibly being chief of staff,” the White House aide suddenly said into the phone. “Other than it looks to me like there’s no original reporting here; you just read Twitter and other people’s stuff, which I guess is why you don’t pick up the phone when people call from the White House because, if it’s not on Twitter or it’s not on cable TV, it’s not real."
Attempting to clarify, Yilek said her editors require her to mention relevant context in her stories, and since George Conway and Trump have traded insults for years in the media, she felt it was pertinent information to include. When Kellyanne pressed the issue further, asking if she writes “about other people’s spouses in your pieces” regularly, Yilek offered to redirect the aide to her editors.
However, Conway was having none of it and told the writer not to rely on the men in her life, or to imply that Conway relies on the men in hers.
"Let me tell you something, from a powerful woman,” Conway, 52, told Yilek, who is 29. “Don’t pull the crap where you’re trying to undercut another woman based on who she’s married to. He gets his power through me, if you haven’t noticed. Not the other way around. And if these are the quote standards unquote at the Washington Examiner, then yes, I'd be happy to talk to your editor. But I’ve known your editor since before you were born."
The Donald Trump-George Conway feud is nothing to sneeze at, either: George once authored an 11,500-word hit piece on the president in The Atlantic titled “Unfit for Office,” in which he berated Trump’s ability to lead. He’s also called the Trump administration “a s**t show in a dumpster fire” and suggested the president has narcissistic personality disorder.
For Trump’s part, he’s called George a “whackjob” and a “stone cold loser & husband from hell.”
George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2019
What’s interesting is that Kellyanne couldn’t seem to recall this when Yilek brought it up. When Conway said Yilek lacks the authority to characterize her feelings by mentioning the feud, Yilek told her, "I don’t know that that is characterizing your feelings to say you’re put in the middle if your husband and your boss are attacking each other,” to which Conway could only demur.
However, before the call was over, Conway threatened the journalist with an investigation of her own.
"Listen, if you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here," she said. "If it has nothing to do with my job - which it doesn’t, that’s obvious - then we’re either going to expect you to cover everybody’s personal life or we’re going to start covering them over here."
When the Examiner published an article with a recording and transcript of the call on Thursday, journalists on Twitter rallied to Yilek’s defense, highlighting the topic’s relevance and the absurdity of Conway’s position.
Kellyanne Conway, who is in the world's most fascinating marriage, is trying to stop reporters talking about her husband.— Matt Bevan 🎙 (@MatthewBevan) October 24, 2019
Kellyanne may be about to become Trump's Chief of Staff. Her husband is calling Trump an insane criminal every day. It's relevant to the story. https://t.co/HobZYxZCFo
Kellyanne Conway cannot remember that the president of the United States attacked her husband by name. https://t.co/t3q0UIdMd9— David Frum (@davidfrum) October 24, 2019
It was also suggested that the transcript would make a great script for a dramatic reading.
it would be super great for people to do dramatic readings of this kellyanne conway monologue pic.twitter.com/r2BSWovjId— Oliver Willis (@owillis) October 24, 2019
The Washington Examiner’s editor-in-chief, Hugo Gurdon, to whom Yilek offered to connect Conway during the phone call, issued a statement on Thursday about the incident.
“Off the record conversations are agreed in good faith and in advance between people known to be participating. They are not, and never have been, a blanket coverage to shield people who pull a bait and switch, peremptorily enter the conversation, and then spend ten minutes abusing, bullying, and threatening a reporter,” Gurdon said. “Other organizations may agree to be played for saps, but the Washington Examiner won’t.”