In a statement that might have read like an ominous foreshadowing of things to come for working parents in the US, where schools have begun to reopen remotely, the 53-year-old senior counsellor to president Donald Trump said she and her husband, George T Conway III, “disagree about plenty … but we are united on what matters most: the kids. Our four children are teens and tweens starting a new academic year in the middle school and high school that will be conducted remotely from home for a least a few months. As millions of parents nationwide know, kids ‘doing school from home’ requires a level of attention and vigilance that is as unusual as these times.”
It would, she declared in a statement that came just three days ahead of her planned appearance at the Republican National Convention, be “less drama, more mama” from now on.
If Kellyanne Conway, with all her influence and wealth – she and her husband are reported to be worth about $40 million (€33.8m) – can’t make homeschooling work without her having to quit her job, then who can?
Those who have been keeping up with the Conways, however, might have suspected there was more to the shock announcement. And yes, it seemed the truth – or the “alternative facts”, as Kellyanne might prefer we called them – is, as ever, just a bit more complex. Her husband, a 56-year-old lawyer, simultaneously announced that he is stepping down from his role at the Lincoln Project for what he vaguely referred to as “family reasons”.
Meanwhile, those “family reasons” were busily making their thoughts known elsewhere on social media. “Look what I did! Look at what I did, ladies and gentlemen,” their teenage daughter, Claudia Conway, announced gleefully on TikTok.
my mother’s job ruined my life to begin with. heartbreaking that she continues to go down that path after years of watching her children suffer. selfish. it’s all about money and fame, ladies and gentlemen.
— CLAUDIA CONWAY (@claudiamconwayy) August 23, 2020
Over the past few months, the left-leaning 15-year-old TikToker has become a sharp and acerbic critic of both her parents, and her mother’s boss. She has taken a stand against Trump over police protests, Black Lives Matter, the mail-in ballot voting controversy, at one point even asking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to adopt her. On Sunday, she tweeted: “I’m devastated that my mother is actually speaking at the RNC. like DEVASTATED beyond compare.”
Claudia’s habit of publicly voicing her political disagreements with her family members does not make her an outlier among the Conways. To put it in terms her mother’s Irish forbears would understand, it’s not from the stones she licked it.
George Conway referred to his wife as having been brainwashed by a cult
George Conway’s initial reaction to Trump’s election – he reportedly wept tears of joy for his wife and declared it the “best thing that has happened to her” – has cooled dramatically, and vocally, over the four years since. Lately he has become an increasingly harsh critic of the president, calling him the “Idiot-in-Chief”. Trump, in turn, issued a typically tempered response, calling Conway a “a stone-cold loser and husband from hell” and a “wack job”. Meanwhile, Conway referred to his wife as having been brainwashed by a cult, suffering from Stockholm syndrome and as an overwhelmed mother protecting a destructive man-child. She has publicly accused him of “disrespecting his wife”. It’s all very Hello! magazine.
It’s been hard to know whether the animosity was genuine, whether this was just a very tragic microcosm of an increasingly polarised society, a morality tale about the erosion of civility and kindness in contemporary society – or whether it was all just a pitch for their own Kardashian-meets-War of the Roses inspired series, to be set in their $8 million, 15,000sq ft DC mansion?
Friends of both within the Republican Party have insisted both their acrimony and their desire to stay together “for the sake of the children” – they are also parents to Claudia’s twin George IV, Charlotte (11) and Vanessa (10) – are genuine. “Those who think this is a 14-dimensional chess game are mistaken,” former Republican Rick Wilson, who is a colleague of George’s at the Lincoln Project, told the New York Times earlier this year. “Who knows the secrets of the human heart?”
Meanwhile, Twitter has hung onto the couple’s every subtweet with a popcorn emoji, an OMG gif or a “Quid pro whoa!”.
But to one family member at least, it’s clearly not all fun and games. On Sunday, Claudia went on to say she was “officially pushing for emancipation. Buckle up because this is probably going to be public one way or another, unfortunately. Welcome to my life.”
“My mother’s job ruined my life … It’s all about money and fame, ladies and gentlemen,” she tweeted.
She later clarified that she was “not getting emancipated because of my mom’s job … it is because of years of childhood trauma and abuse”, and said she was taking a “mental health break” from Twitter.
Now, with both Conways taking a step back from their responsibilities to devote themselves to their children, has the Conway Show really completed its final run? Or is it just getting ready for a brand new season? Kellyanne Conway has promised “less drama, more mama”. But she may need to convince some of her family.