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No Matter What You Think of Kellyanne Conway, Here’s How You Don’t Talk About Her

Earlier this week, Kellyanne Conway became the subject of debate (yet again) when she was photographed with her feet tucked behind her, shoes on, heels digging into the Oval Office couch.

The discussion has continued for days, with Conway’s defendants lobbing arguments of “this is ‘incredibly dumb'” and “Obama did it first.” The other side has accused Conway of being at best disrespectful (both to Trump and the the black education leaders in that meeting), and possibly also demonstrating a working narrative designed to undercut our expectations of her.

Conway herself has addressed her strange, informal posture, saying the position allowed her to photograph the event.

She says she “was asked to take a certain angle and was doing exactly that,” adding, “I certainly meant no disrespect, I didn’t mean to have my feet on the couch.” (Though not meaning to do something isn’t exactly a great explanation for why she did do it.)

Still, no matter what your feelings on Conway and this sofa incident–whether you think this is a waste of our time or you think that body language and formalities are important and worth paying attention to–a Democratic congressman has given us an example of how NOT to talk about this story.

Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana made this awful joke at a fundraiser Wednesday:

You even mentioned Kellyanne and the picture on the sofa. But I really just want to know what was going on there, because, I won’t tell anybody. And you can just explain to me that — that circumstance, because she really looked kind of familiar there in that position there. But don’t answer. And I don’t want you to refer back to the ’90s.

Richmond is, of course, vaguely and clumsily referring to Bill Clinton’s Oval Office affairs. No matter what you feel about Conway here, reducing her to sexual innuendoes is degrading. Instead of apologizing, Richmond has since issued a statement to the Washington Post that pretty much amounts to you just didn’t get the joke.

Since some people have interpreted my joke to mean something that it didn’t I think it is important to clarify what I meant. Last night was night of levity. Where I grew up saying that someone is looking or acting ‘familiar’ simply means that they are behaving too comfortably.

I decided to use that joke due to the large social media backlash over her inappropriate posture considering there were more than 60 HBCU Presidents in the room.

That’s ridiculous. Richmond is attempting to blame his statement on our dirty gutter brains, when there can be no question that his joke was one giant *wink wink, nudge nudge.* His “joke” is clearly implying that Conway’s “familiar” kneeling position is a “familiarity” with performing oral sex. It’s a crude, cheap joke, made even worse by the childish deflection.

Richmond’s joke immediately brings to mind a similar one made by Trump years ago, which was brought up by Megyn Kelly during a GOP primary debate. During an episode of Celebrity Apprentice, a contestant told a story of begging on her knees to keep a job. Trump’s response was “It must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”

Richmond’s joke is no better than Trump’s demeaning comment. Both were the result of a man seeing or picturing a woman keeling and finding himself incapable of not snickering, not reducing her to a sex act. Personally, I think the sofa incident far from “dumb,” and absolutely worth talking about. I find her position entirely disrespectful (more to the guests and to the history that couch has been through than to Trump), but Richmond’s comments miss any point worth making and aim solely to humiliate a woman not for anything she’s doing, for simply existing as a woman.

There is a lot to criticize about Kellyanne Conway, but Richmond’s comments have nothing to do with Conway herself. They are the same kind of snide, juvenile snickering all women are subjected to any time a mean-spirited, petty man wants to tear us down but lacks the cleverness or means to attack us in any relevant way.

Rep. Richards, may I remind you:


(via Washington Post, image via Gage Skidmore / Visual hunt)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.