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Kellyanne: Victim of Sexism?

The counselor to the president isn't getting a fair shake.

Kate McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway on "Saturday Night Live." (Courtesy photo)

To all of you who think you've got me pegged, be prepared for a jolt: I don't think Kellyanne Conway is getting a fair shake. Really. Compared to the boys in the Trump administration, she's getting a whipping.

I know she's not easy to love. Her glib defense of all things Trumpian is tiresome. She has a tenuous relationship with truth, though she did contribute the term "alternative facts" to our lexicon. She crossed the ethics line with that infomercial she did for Ivanka Trump's fashion line. She wore a goofy Napoleonesque outfit to the inauguration. (Believe it or not, it was a Gucci.)

And, oh, just a few days ago, she was photographed in a weird pose in the Oval Office during a meeting with representatives of black colleges and the president. (She was kneeling on the sofa, engrossed in her cellphone, looking like a distracted teenager at cheerleading practice.)

That unorthodox pose led The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens to tweet: "If Rice or Jarrett had sat like this in Oval Office conservatives would have screamed themselves hoarse for weeks. Now we own trashy." And another pro-Trump publication, The New York Post, carried this headline about the incident: "Was Kellyanne Conway Raised in a Barn?"

"Trashy" and "Raised in Barn"? Ouch. Are we talking unlady-like?

Conway is also getting grief from members of the legal establishment. Last week, 15 law professors filed an ethics complaint against Conway, a graduate of George Washington University Law School, for her misrepresentations to the public and endorsement of Ivanka Trump's products, according to Law.com's Marcia Coyle. Though the suit is essentially a political statement and will likely go nowhere, it's puzzling why these academics would pick Conway to make their point. After all, she hasn't been a practicing lawyer for decades, so why create this fiction that she should be held to the standard of the bar?

I'm not trying to defend Conway's action. But here's my question: Is she worse than a lot of other top officials in the administration?

I think the answer is no. Yet, she seems to be singled out for scorn. Last month, Morning Joe banned her from the show because co-host Joe Scarborough said Conway "makes things up." (Query, would the show ban Donald Trump, Sean Spicer, Jeff Sessions, who was just caught lying about meeting with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, and others who've strayed from the truth?)

Of course, other luminaries in the Trump administration have been criticized and mocked. (On "Saturday Night Live," Melissa McCarthy played an out-of-control Spicer, and chief strategist Steve Bannon was depicted as the Grim Reaper). But the difference is that Conway gets blasted in distinctly sexist and sexualized ways. In a recent SNL skit, Kate McKinnon portrays Conway as the crazed "Fatal Attraction" character: the proverbial unhinged, scorned woman. (OK, it was a very funny skit.)

And in a recent New Yorker satire, the fake headline reads: "Americans Overwhelmingly Say Their Lives Have Improved Since Kellyanne Conway Went Away."

Conway isn't popular, but should she be drawing this much ire? She's not the White House counsel who should be steering the ethics ship. Nor is she Bannon, who's pulling the strings. Though she's often just parroting her boss's position (and lies), she's the one who really gets nailed. Guess she's simply not likable.

And that's because we don't like women who aren't nice. Fact is, we expect them to be more honest and morally upstanding. Someone like Bannon can play the Dark Prince, and it's more or less acceptable in the political game. But the idea of a conniving woman who dances around the facts? Shocking. Unacceptable.

Perhaps Conway is suffering from the Hillary Clinton syndrome—the stain that attaches to women whose honesty and character have come into question. I know it seems like ancient history now, but how many times did we hear that trustworthiness was Hillary's failing? And how many times was she faulted for not being humble?

Such quaint concerns, especially given the mess that Trump's team now is in with the Russians.

Anyway, let's be fair to Kellyanne. If the boys on her team can continue their nonsense, shouldn't she get the same courtesy?

Originally published on The American Lawyer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Contributing Author

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Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen is the Chief Blogger on The Careerist, her column, and Senior Columnist, The American Lawyer. She is also a former lawyer....

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