Reporter says White House senior adviser threatened to ‘delve’ into her personal life

October 23, 2019

Caitlin Yilek, a breaking news reporter for the Washington Examiner, wrote that she was berated and threatened by top White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway during a phone call on Oct. 23, 2019.

Yilek had published an article the day before about President Donald Trump considering Conway as his next chief of staff; Yilek included details about the feud between the president and Conway’s husband, George Conway. Tom Joannou, Conway’s assistant, contacted Yilek that evening asking for her phone number.

The morning of Oct. 23, Joannou called and requested that their conversation be off the record, but moments later Conway took over the call, initiating a new, on-the-record conversation. Conway appeared to be furious with the reporter’s coverage, and berated Yilek for what she classified as lazy, irrelevant and sexist reporting.

In a transcript of the call published by the Examiner, Conway says, “So, I just am wondering why in God’s earth you would need to mention anything about George Conway’s tweets in an article that talks about me as possibly being chief of staff. Other than it looks to me like there’s no original reporting here, you just read Twitter and other people’s stuff, which I guess is why you don’t pick up the phone when people call from the White House because, if it’s not on Twitter or it’s not on cable TV, it’s not real.”

Conway also accused Yilek of “trying to undercut another woman based on who she’s married to,” and dismissed Yilek’s explanations of why information about George Conway was considered important contextual information.

Near the end of the call, Conway said: “Listen, if you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here.” Yilek later characterized the statement as a threat that “the White House would delve into the personal lives of reporters if they wrote about her husband.”

Conway disputed Yilek’s version of events, saying in a lengthy statement, “What I said on that call I’ve said publicly on-the-record before, including on TV, in speeches, in driveway gaggles with reporters. I did NOT indicate the call was off-the-record, but the reporter certainly thought it was.”

Neither Conway nor Yilek responded to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s requests for comment.

In a video published by The Washington Post, a reporter asked Conway to clarify what she meant by “cover her personal life.” Conway responded, “Right, so, don’t use the word ‘threaten’ and don’t use the word ‘investigate’ and stop being so silly.” She did not, however, elaborate on her original intent with the statement to Yilek.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

Related Incidents

Pastor threatens Greenville News during sermon

April 2, 2019
Pastor Hope Carpenter appeared to threaten Greenville News during a sermon at a South Carolina church on April 2, 2019.Toward the end of Carpenter's monologue at Relentless Church in Greenville, she expressed gratitude to the church leadership before targeting Greenville News."I cut people. I got a knife right in that pocketbook," Carpenter told the congregation, according to the Washington Post. "Greenville News, come on. We done went through this. I'm still here, and guess who else is still going to …

White House deputy press secretary resigns after threatening Politico reporter

January 20, 2021
According to Vanity Fair, deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo threatened and verbally harassed Politico reporter Tara Palmeri on Jan. 20, 2021, in an attempt to quash a story about his relationship with political reporter Alexi McCammond, then of Axios.Palmeri, Politico and the White House did not respond to the Tracker’s requests for comment.On Jan. 21, Playbook, Politico’s daily newsletter, of which Palmeri is a co-author, included an item headlined “BIDEN SETS STANDARD FOR PROFESSIONAL BEHAVIOR” and a quote …
More related incidents