White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is rightly receiving negative attention for absurdly calling Press Secretary Sean Spicer's falsehoods "alternative facts." But a much more important moment occurred earlier in that Meet the Press interview when she openly threatened host Chuck Todd, live on the air.
President Donald Trump's incoming White House Counselor, Kellyanne Conway, elicited deserved laughter from Chuck Todd — and the entire Internet — when she attempted to cast Press Secretary Sean Spicer's clear lies about Trump's inauguration crowd as "alternative facts."
TODD: ...answer the question of why the president asked the White House Press Secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood? Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office —
CONWAY: No it doesn't.
TODD: — on day one.
CONWAY: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What — you're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains —
TODD: Wait a minute. Alternative facts?
CONWAY: — that there's —
TODD: Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right —
CONWAY: Hey, Chuck, why — hey Chuck —
TODD: — was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.
CONWAY: Chuck, do you think it's a fact or not that millions of people have lost their plans or health insurance and their doctors under President Obama?
As it happens, even Conway's deflection was a lie: Many millions more people have gained coverage under Obamacare, and she later conceded the fact that there were not over a million people at Trump's inauguration, as Trump had asserted.
Buried beneath Conway's audacious lies, though, was a truly frightening moment from earlier in the interview that has gone largely unnoticed. In a continuation of the Trump administration's campaign to intimidate and control the press, Conway actually threatened Todd's access, live and in front of millions:
TODD: You make a very reasonable and rational case for why crowd sizes don't matter. Then explain, you did not answer the question, why did the president send out his Press Secretary, who's not just the spokesperson for Donald Trump, he also serves as the spokesperson for all of America at times. He speaks for all of the country at times. Why put him out there for the very first time in front of that podium to utter a provable falsehood? It's a small thing. But the first time he confronts the public it's a falsehood?
CONWAY: Chuck, I mean, if we're going to keep referring to our Press Secretary in those types of terms I think that we're going to have to rethink our relationship here.
This cannot be overstated: These are not moments of candor from Trump spokespeople, this is messaging. Spicer delivered a similar threat from the podium Saturday, and he read it straight out of his briefing book. This is an open campaign to intimidate the press, and although Todd continued to press Conway on Spicer's falsehoods, this is a long game. Trump and his team are normalizing and making the case for state-run media.
Even as they try to quash accountability from the press, Trump's administration is also avoiding accountability from the American people. A "We the People" petition at WhiteHouse.gov has gathered more than double the required signatures to demand that President Trump release his tax returns. Conway cut right through the petition process to deliver the official White House response on ABC News' This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question, you mentioned a couple of the hundreds of thousands of people who sent in petitions on healthcare, talking about healthcare. You also have more than 200,000 petition the White House calling on President Trump to release his full tax returns with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance.
Whenever 100,000 petition, that triggers the White House president. So what is the White House response?
CONWAY: The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care. They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.
Contrary to Conway's assertion, the majority of Americans do want to see Trump's tax returns. But far be it from this team to care about actual facts, as opposed to "alternative facts."
The Trump administration threatens anyone who might hold them accountable, and now, they are openly ignoring the American people's attempt to do so, all before their first full business day on the job. This is yet another reason why it is more important than ever, and truly patriotic, to resist this unaccountable regime.