Following Nordstrom’s announcement that it was dropping Ivanka Trump’s clothing line last week, President Trump did what he usually does when he’s “displeased” with something or someone. He took to Twitter to share his displeasure:
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
Thursday morning, the “plot” thickened.
Kellyanne Conway dropped by “Fox & Friends,” and proceeded to deliver what amounted to little more than an infomercial for Ivanka’s products:
“It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully — I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”
As reported by Politico, Conway may have violated a regulation banning Executive branch staff from endorsing products or companies.
CNN contributors Frida Ghitis and Larry Noble seemed confident that Conway — and possibly President Trump, as well — violated it:
Here's the law Kellyanne Conway just broke. (And arguably the president broke it with Nordstrom tweet) https://t.co/o7LZxAxm1S
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) February 9, 2017
Appears Kellayanne Conway may have just violated ban on Federal employee using public office for endorsement of product. 5 CFR 2635.702 https://t.co/mIvngSHCnk
— Larry Noble (@LarryNoble_DC) February 9, 2017
CNN politics writer and editor David Wright tweeted Conway’s comments immediately:
Kellaynne Conway on Fox: "Go buy Ivanka's stuff, is what I would tell you"…"I'm going to give it a free commercial here, go buy it today."
— David Wright (@DavidWright_CNN) February 9, 2017
Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary of Labor during the Obama administration, also fired off a tweet, tagging the Office of Government Ethics and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) February 9, 2017
So let’s take a look at the regulation in question. It states, in part:
An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.
Setting aside Trump and Conway for a minute, neither is the “Lone Ranger” of “Executive branch product endorsements.”
In a 2012 article titled “Reflections on the Greatest Free Product Endorsement Ever,” Forbes recounted President Obama’s love of his BlackBerry.Getty Images/Mark Wilson
“I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry. They’re going to pry it out of my hands.”
First Lady Michelle Obama was fond of Five Guys burgers:
“I went to Five Guys and nobody knew it,” Michelle Obama said in a 2009 interview, recalling how she sometimes snuck out of the White House outside the prying eyes of the press. “It was good.”
The president was a fan of the restaurant chain, as well, giving a “shout out to Five Guys” for hiring a felon.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has called for “disciplinary action” against Conway for her comments on “Fox & Friends.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded on Thursday morning, telling reporters that Conway has been “counseled” about her comments.