Kellyanne Conway: Counselor and target

Kellyanne Conway

But there was also this remark on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about the size of the crowd on Inauguration Day: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving -- Sean Spicer, our press secretary -- gave alternative facts to that.” [To which Chuck Todd replied, “Look, alternative facts are not facts; they’re falsehoods.”]

O’Donnell asked, “Did you take a credibility hit because of what happened with that, what happened with the Bowling Green Massacre, and what happened when you talked about alternative facts? Did that hurt your credibility?”

“Well, I think the question presumes that it did,” she responded. “And so, now you’ve got that out in the ether and the one or two -- “

“Actually, you can say no. I didn’t presume anything.”

“No. What people should do, what I’ve always done with others, is look at the measure of someone’s career. I’ve been a pollster for two decades plus. And I’ve worked very hard to speak candidly and truthfully.”

“What are ‘alternative facts’?”

“Well, it was ‘alternative investment and additional facts.’ And that got conflated. But, you know, respectfully, Norah, I see mistakes on TV every single day and people just brush them off. Everybody thinks it’s just so funny that the wrong movie was, you know, heralded as the winner of the Oscars. You say, ‘Well, that’s just all in good fun, things happen.’ Well, things happen to everyone.” 

Conway has also taken flack for promoting Ivanka Trump’s fashion line while in the White House. [“I’m gonna give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody! You can buy it online” she said on Fox News.]

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would later say she was “counseled” for that. Then this past week, the White House said Conway acted “without nefarious motive or intent.”

O’Donnell asked, “Did you feel bad about what happened?”

“I always feel badly because I’m, you know, Catholic guilt, mother guilt, maternal guilt, counselor guilt,” Conway laughed. “It’s all there, of course. Of course I felt badly about what happened because I am here to serve the president, who’s here to serve the people.”

Kellyanne Conway with correspondent Norah O’Donnell. CBS News

And she does it from one of the most coveted offices in the West Wing, once occupied by Valerie Jarrett, Karl Rove and former first lady Hillary Clinton.

The jacket is hanging up there. “It may go into my own private museum one day, along with the screen shot of my cellphone, 2:30 a.m. on election night, from Huma Abedin, who was calling on behalf of Secretary Clinton to call and concede to and congratulate Donald Trump on his victory.”

O’Donnell visited Conway’s office last Wednesday, the morning after President Trump’s address to Congress, one that seemed to mark a departure from the fiery stump style Americans have grown accustomed to. Was the speech a reset button? “No. I think the reset button is way overdone,” Conway said. “I mean, this is a progression. The man has been on the job for five weeks.”

“What went into this speech that changed the way he’s communicating?” O’Donnell asked.

“Well, first of all, I was part of the process. Others did the bulk of the work. But I will tell you that it is President Trump who was writing and rewriting entire passages. And he really wanted it to be in his voice. And he works with, predominantly, a brilliant speechwriter, Stephen Miller, who is able to really reflect the president’s tone and content. And then I think you heard much of Ivanka Trump’s voice in that speech.”

Conway says her job includes press and communications. And she sees herself as a conduit -- a person who delivers advice and data to the president.

She arrives in the morning at 7:30. The time at which she leaves varies. “Not early,” she said. “I mean, it really varies. Usually not before 8:00, 9:00. 

“But I have a very hermit-like existence here, and part of it is because of the Secret Service detail, part of it is because if I want to go out with a friend for dinner it’s photographed and it’s talked about and it’s, ‘What did she eat? What did she do? What was she wearing?’ And it’s kind of weird. I mean, I’m not a celebrity. I’m just a pollster who happened to become a campaign manager. And I’ve been trying to keep a much lower profile here.”

Which is why, she tells us, we’re seeing less of her these days. She says she’s trying to cut back on screen time.

She says, “People should not look at me as somebody who ‘goes on TV.’ That was five percent of what I did. Somebody once wrote a very flattering article and said -- they had to put one negative thing in there, I guess -- ‘You know, maybe she’s not that involved in everything because she’s on TV.’ It’s like, ‘No, I’m on TV when they’re all still sleeping or watching me from bed.’ I’m already there. Been up for two hours doing that. Oh, and I’m there late at night.”

That may be just as well, because late-night hasn’t been kind to Conway. Not long ago, “Saturday Night Live” depicted her as a stalker:

Jake Tapper - SNL by Saturday Night Live on YouTube

“Look, people really got outraged about that particular skit,” Conway said. “I had people right, left and center coming to my ‘defense,’ saying it was over the top and it’s all so -- but it’s also untrue.”

So who is Kellyanne Conway? She was raised in a blue-collar New Jersey town. Her parents divorced when she was young.

“I grew up in a house of all women. My mother, her mother and two of my mother’s unmarried sisters raised me. So these four Italian Catholic women raised me in this house. And that has benefited me tremendously, because there’s a certain humility that will never go away.”