Navarrette: With the media fixated on her marriage, Conway can't live happily ever after

Kellyanne Conway is giving me a case of whiplash. One day, I defend the outspoken counselor to the president. The next day, I criticize her. Then, before you know it, I’m back to defending her again.

It all depends on the facts, the circumstances, how Conway is being treated, and by whom. That’s fair, right?

I admit that “fair” is not how it normally works in today’s media, but it is how it’s supposed to work. Consistency is often incompatible with fairness. If journalists do their jobs correctly, and if they at least try to put aside their biases and act as honest brokers, they’re bound to experience a lot of back and forth when covering people or writing about issues.

Nothing wrong with that. Politics is complicated, and so are many of the folks who play in that sandbox. And when you factor in the oversized footprint of the media — and how petty newspapers, magazines, digital sites and television networks can be depending on what party you belong to — you shouldn’t expect the picture to always be crystal clear.

It’s not good enough for journalists to throw hardballs at people they don’t like and soft-pedal around those who they do. We can’t afford to shrug or turn a blind eye when a public figure is mistreated just because they’re not our favorite person. What does that have to do with anything?

In the Trump era, media criticism has become a cottage industry precisely because my colleagues and I do so much that deserves criticism. We’ve gone way off the rails, and we often mistake anyone who works for Trump as our own personal chew toy. Professionalism demands more.

Conway drives me bananas. She has ever since that time we were on CNN together, during the 2016 election, discussing her candidate at the time and the person whose campaign she worked for as a pollster — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. I had a beef with Cruz that day, even though he’s a friend whom I’ve known and admired for more than 15 years. When I lit into Cruz, Conway lit into me. “Some friend,” she scoffed.

Just a few weeks ago, I took Conway to task for attacking Caitlin Yilek, a reporter for the Washington Examiner. Yilek had noted in a story that Conway has been “in the middle of [President] Trump’s barbs with her husband, George, a conservative lawyer who frequently makes headlines for his criticism of the president.” Conway called Yilek and — after a seven-minute rant — threatened to poke around in the reporter’s personal life because turnabout is fair play.

Yet now I’m back to defending Conway, this time against the media, and the harsh treatment she recently got from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer over — surprise — her marriage.

At issue: the fact George Conway spent the first day of the House impeachment inquiry offering legal analysis on MSNBC. Blitzer was curious what Conway, a fierce defender of President Trump, had to say about that.

Of course, what a wife and husband have to say to each other — especially on a matter about which they disagree — is no one else’s business.

Kellyanne and George are public figures, but they’re not public property. Journalists can ask Kellyanne about politics, or George about the law. But it’s bad form — and awful manners — to ask one about the other on live television.

The interview started off comically with Blitzer insisting, “I don’t want to talk about your marriage.” Then he talked about her marriage.

When someone says: “It’s not about the money,” it’s usually about the money.

Worst of all, Blitzer made a backhanded comment about how there were “issues” in Conway’s marriage — you know because she works for Trump, and her husband is a frequent Trump critic.

Issues in her marriage? Are you kidding me? Flag on the play!

Blitzer was way out of line, and he richly deserved the scolding he got from Conway on the spot for delving into the sophomoric gossip mill.

Is this what has become of you, Conway tersely asked Blitzer. Is this what has become of CNN?

Yes. Unfortunately, it is. Once they decide you’re a bad person, they think it gives them license to treat you badly.

Good for Conway for sticking up for herself. Shame on CNN, and shame on Blitzer. Even in our business, there are lines forged by decency. And you crossed one.

— Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group.

Today's Bible verse

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

— Isaiah 7:14

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