Is Fox News’ former chairman Roger Ailes helping Donald Trump prep for the upcoming presidential debates? Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, says she doesn’t know.
Conway was asked the question plainly by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday, after news broke that 21st Century Fox (FOX) had settled Ailes’ sexual harassment lawsuit with former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson for $20 million.
Reports have stated that Ailes, a former political consultant for GOP heavyweights including President Richard Nixon, began advising Trump shortly after his departure from Fox, including helping with debate prep and discussing campaign ads. The campaign has repeatedly denied those claims, saying last month that while the two “are longtime friends,” Ailes had “no formal or informal role in the campaign.”
Stephanopoulos raised the question to Conway again in a Good Morning America interview on Wednesday.
“Lots of reporting that Mr. Ailes is advising Mr. Trump, meeting with him, going over debate prep, helping with attack lines. Is that appropriate in light of this settlement?” he asked.
Conway said she is “at Trump Tower every day,” but “I’ve never seen Mr. Ailes there. I saw him one time for lunch recently.”
She did not elaborate on what was discussed at that meeting. But the media mogul’s advisory role to Trump began “at a private lunch just days before the launch of his campaign, and [he] regularly offered him advice over the course of the primaries,” CNNMoney reported Wednesday evening, citing sources familiar with the discussions.
From CNN’s report:
“Since late July, when Ailes left Fox News amid a torrent of sexual harassment allegations, he has taken on a much more active role in Trump’s campaign — specifically in terms of debate preparation.
In recent weeks, Ailes has become one of the most influential voices in the room as Trump prepares for his first head-to-head matchup with Hillary Clinton, on September 26. Ailes has attended at least two of Trump’s Sunday debate prep sessions in person, sources said, and talks with Trump by phone multiple times a week.”
“He is giving Mr. Trump advice, isn’t he?” Stephanopoulos pressed Conway.
“I don’t know, because Mr. Trump speaks to many people on the phone when I’m not there,” Conway said. “They’ve known each other probably for 30 years, I would think, pre–Fox News and pre–presidential politics, no doubt.”
(Editor’s note: Michelle Toh previously worked at Fox News.)