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Kellyanne Conway: “I’m a victim of sexual assault”

She made the remarks while defending Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination on CNN with Jake Tapper.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in October 2017.
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in October 2017.
Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Kellyanne Conway, one of President Donald Trump’s top advisers, said she was a victim of sexual assault in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper on Sunday.

Conway was on the show to discuss the sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the FBI’s investigation into the matter. While defending Kavanaugh and calling Thursday’s hearing with him and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, a “national disgrace,” Conway shifted the topic to her own experience and became visibly emotional.

“I feel very empathetic, frankly, for victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape. I’m a victim of sexual assault,” Conway said. “I don’t expect Judge Kavanaugh or Jake Tapper or Jeff Flake or anybody to be held responsible for that. You have to be responsible for your own conduct.”

Women around the country have recognized themselves in Ford’s story and cited their own experiences with sexual assault while demanding their senators vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination. They’ve called the Senate’s debate over Kavanaugh a test for the #MeToo movement — an idea Conway rejected Sunday.

She went on to call comparisons to Bill Cosby a “disgrace” and continued her attack on the process as “partisan politics.”

“If not one Senate member changes their vote because of what they learn from the FBI investigation, that tells you all you kneed to know about what the president and Judge Kavanaugh have said is a sham,” she said.

Conway also mentioned the women who confronted Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake on Friday in an elevator ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting about their experiences with sexual assault. “God bless them,” Conway said, “but go blame the perpetrator. That’s who’s responsible for the sexual assaults: It’s the people who commit them.”

Tapper, visibly surprised, responded, “This is the first time I’ve ever heard you talk about something personal like that, and I’m sorry.” Conway said she’d “just had it.”

He went on to push her about Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women and who has said that what he claims are false allegations against him have shaped his view on the issue. Shouldn’t Ford and other women be heard?

“They should all be heard, and they should all be heard in courts of law and depositions, they should be heard in proceedings,” Conway said. “Those who can prosecute, those who have civil and/or criminal causes of action should pursue that. But we do treat people who are either the victims or perpetrators on this based on their politics and their gender. That is a huge mistake.”

She went on to explain how she talks to her son about the Kavanaugh allegations and expressed concern, as many Republicans have, that “any man” could face such claims. “It could be any man in any position now,” she said.

Conway spoke about her #MeToo moment last year

Conway, 51, has been a compelling figure to watch as Kavanaugh’s nomination process has stalled because of the allegations against him. She told Fox News earlier this month that Ford “should not be insulted and should not be ignored” and said the Senate should hear her and Judge Kavanaugh “in sworn testimony.” Days later, she seemed to have shifted: In a call with White House surrogates, she reportedly said the allegations might be a “left-wing conspiracy” and said Kavanaugh is better than disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. (She brought up Weinstein on CNN on Sunday, as well.)

This is not the first time Conway has alluded to a #MeToo moment, but it is the first time she’s plainly stated it was sexual assault. In December 2017, she said at a Politico summit that she had been sexually harassed but “nobody cared” because of her politics. “If we’re going to have an honest conversation, everyone — you can’t pick and choose depending on somebody’s politics,” she said.

On Saturday, Conway anticipated the backlash she would likely face on Twitter over her statements to Tapper. “I don’t want to hear it,” she said.