Donald Trump’s campaign manager was repeatedly pressed Friday as she attempted to explain inconsistencies in the Republican presidential nominee’s statements on the Iraq War.
On two separate morning shows, Kellyanne Conway said Trump’s declaration of support for the war during a 2002 interview with radio host Howard Stern was not a reliable indication of how he felt at the time.
On CNN, anchor Chris Cuomo pressed Conway on Trump’s Iraq War flip-flops.
“He doesn’t want to own that he wasn’t against it before it started,” Cuomo said. “Why not? Why not just own it? And as you like to say, he was a private citizen.”
Conway insisted that despite Trump responding “yeah, I guess so” when Stern asked if he supported the invasion of Iraq, his statement wasn’t equal to then Sen. Hillary Clinton’s vote in favor of the war.
“He knows how he felt, and he was against the Iraq War,” Conway said. “He thinks it was a disaster. And he is willing to say it now. … You’re playing that clip. Your network keeps playing this clip on the Howard Stern interview, where he’s asked, ‘Do you want to invade Iraq, yeah, I guess so,’ literally. Whereas Hillary Clinton, as United States senator from your state of New York, went into the well of the Senate and proudly cast her vote in favor of the war in Iraq.”
Trump again insisted on Thursday that he was against the Iraq War before it started, in March 2003.
“I was opposed to that war from the beginning, long before my interview with Howard Stern,” Trump said.
He pointed to an interview from days after the war started.
“Just days after the war started, I was quoted as saying the war is a mess,” he said.
Trump has also recently pointed to a 2004 Esquire interview in which he called the Iraq War a “mess” and said he “would never have handled it that way.”
Conway also pointed to the Esquire interview on CNN on Friday.
“Look at the Esquire magazine interview,” Conway said. “Look at his other statements. He is telling you that he was against it. When then Sen. Barack Obama said he had been in the United States Senate during the Iraq War vote, he would have been against it, everybody just took him at his word.”
The hosts of CBS’s “This Morning” also grilled Conway on Trump’s position on the Iraq War.
“The point is, as you know, he constantly says ‘I was always against the war,'” host Charlie Rose said to Conway. “Here he says ‘I guess’ I would support it. That’s a contradiction.”
Conway pushed back, offering a similar defense to the one she gave CNN.
“Not really, Charlie,” she said. “And here is why: He is giving – he is on a radio show. Hillary Clinton went into the well of the United States Senate representing this state of New York and case a vote in favor of the Iraq War.”
Rose said that “this is not about Hillary Clinton.”
“She has acknowledged that vote and acknowledged it was a mistake,” Rose said. “He has not, and he wants to have it both ways.”
Conway said that Trump has acknowledged that Clinton’s vote was a mistake, to which Rose replied, “No, but he has not acknowledged that at one point he said he was for the war.
“Why can’t he simply say that?” Rose asked. “‘At one point I was, and then I changed my mind.”
Conway again pointed to the Esquire interview.
“There are other public statements that he made contemporaneously with that, including the Esquire magazine interview, where he gives a much longer answer about why he thinks it was a bad idea,” Conway said. “He is very clear now about how it did not work.”
Despite Conway’s insistence that Trump’s comments on the Iraq War were contemporaneous, the Stern interview happened in 2002, before the invasion, and the Esquire interview was published in 2004, the year after the war started.