CNN host Christiane Amanpour pummeled senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway with questions about President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric after he gave a speech calling for the country to come together following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Trump, who has a long history of stoking fears about immigration and using racist language to attack Democrats of color, called on Americans to unite in an effort to end mass shootings during a speech from the White House Monday.
“The 10-ton gorilla in the room is the president, I’m afraid, and you are his senior counselor,” Amanpour said to Conway during an interview later on Monday. “Will he follow up on what he urged the country today: to put aside racial hatred, white supremacy and just stop all this hatred? Will he do that now?”
Conway claimed the president “already did it” when he condemned white supremacy and bigotry during his speech Monday.
“I have to gently but firmly disagree with your characterization of the president and remind you that … today he showed equal parts grief, shock, anger, condolences, resolve and action,” Conway said. “He’s trying to find solutions without politicizing them.”
Amanpour reminded Conway that Trump attacked the media just hours before his speech calling for unity, claiming the press is spreading hatred and division. She also pointed out similarities between the views of the suspected gunman in El Paso and Trump’s past comments about immigrants.
“The president used the word ‘invasion’ and the gunman said his attack was a response to the ‘Hispanic invasion of Texas,‘” Amanpour said. “Do you try to tell him not to use words like ‘invasion’, like ‘infestation,’ like all the words that he uses which are associated with hate speech?”
Conway tried to deflect the question by ranting about a past CNN interview with former FBI Director James Comey before stating that what she discusses with the president is “private.”
“I will tell you this: I’m very happy that he as the president … denounced in no uncertain terms unequivocally hate, racism and white supremacy,” she said.
Amanpour continued to press Conway on whether she would urge Trump to tone down his rhetoric following the recent spate of mass shootings, saying, “I am trying to have a grown up conversation with you.”
“Most people who study this, including the FBI, including the experts on this … say that there are climates of hate that are created and usually from the top,” Amanpour said. “Will you and the president’s advisors seek to restrict his Twitter use and his other use of these words ― what he said about Elijah Cummings, what he said about Baltimore, what he says about migrants ― yes or no? It’s simple.”
Conway responded, “No, it’s not simple and here’s why. No, I’m not telling you what I discuss with the president.”
Watch Amanpour’s tense exchange with Conway below: