Objectively speaking, Claudia Conway is fascinating. It’s controversial to state this point-blank, mostly because Conway is 15 years old, and there’s a tacit agreement among most mainstream media outlets that minors are off-limits (despite the entirety of the celebrity industrial complex serving as evidence to the contrary). But the daughter of Kellyanne and George Conway is objectively compelling, not only because of her outspoken anti-Trump views, which she regularly posts about on TikTok, but also because her social media presence offers a window into the domestic drama of her famous parents, who have notoriously disparate views of President Trump.
Most recently, she momentarily served as a news-cycle driver in her own right, posting that her mother had tested positive for COVID-19 hours before Conway herself went public about it. In her comments section on TikTok, she also contradicted the official narrative about President Trump’s health, writing “guys lmao he’s not doing ‘better.’” (She later denied in a statement she posted to TikTok that she was privy to any of Trump’s personal health information.) By virtue of her intelligence, her social media savviness, and her access to high-profile figures within the Trump administration, she is undeniably one of the most interesting people in America right now.
As a member of the media, that’s how I feel about Claudia Conway; as a parent, however, I feel much differently. As a parent, I watch her TikTok livestreams, where she regularly speaks about wanting to become emancipated and feeling unsafe in her own home, and she appears to be a child in crisis, or at the very least a minor in a precarious family situation. I must note that we don’t know exactly what’s going on in Conway’s home. But judging by her parents’ own statements regarding their resignations from their respective roles — Kellyanne said she was stepping down from her White House post at the end of August to focus on her four children, saying she wanted to give them “less drama, more mama,” while George cited similar reasons when he stepped down from the Lincoln Project, an organization he helped found — it seems like, at the very least, a tumultuous situation for a 15-year-old.
As a parent, I want to see Claudia’s mother actually live up to her stated goal of quitting her job at the White House to take care of family issues, instead of continuing to attend White House functions, and appearing to feed her lines on-camera, as she did in a now-deleted post earlier this week. And as a parent, I am frustrated that some members of the media are so enamored with Claudia Conway as to persist in writing about her social-media presence, even when she and her parents have explicitly asked people not to — but I realize how much more meaningful this sentiment would be if I weren’t a member of the media, writing about her social media presence. All of which makes covering Claudia Conway feel very much like Snake, the tail always in danger of catching up to the head, a game that no one has any hope of actually winning.
Unfortunately, Conway has been elevated to something of a #resistance hero, the darling of liberals who retweet Lin-Manuel Miranda and Elizabeth Warren’s dog and love to sprinkle their bios with references to iced coffee and Harry Potter. This contingent has, over the past few months, devoted itself to fawning over Claudia Conway. This is not uncommon, as MEL Magazine’s Miles Klee wrote back in August: “The followers lionizing Claudia do so in the same spirit that they applauded teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and the kids who advocated for gun control after surviving the shooting at their Parkland, Florida high school: as leaders of a new generation that will save this country.” Unlike Thunberg and the Parkland teens, Conway is a TikTok creator, not an activist, but that hasn’t stopped people from semi-jokingly referring to Conway as a liberal savior, or the “supreme whistleblower of our time,” as one effusive fan stated on Twitter.
There are those who believe that the media’s fascination with Claudia is perverse and totally unwarranted. With the possible exception of her own mother, Kellyanne — who likely has her own reasons for harboring this view (chief among them not wanting her family’s dirty laundry aired) — this seems self-righteous at best and totally disingenuous at worst. Part of Claudia’s “brand,” as it were, is vacillating between courting media attention and purporting to be totally flummoxed by it. “I am appalled at the mainstream media’s efforts to exploit a teenage girl, which is negatively affecting my mental health,” she wrote in a statement posted to her TikTok, adding “I am not the ‘whistleblower’ of our time. I am simply a 15-year-old girl with a following.” This was immediately followed by a tongue-in-cheek post featuring her entry on FamousBirthdays.com. “Y’all are boosting me, I’m loving this,” she said in the video, with the caption “BOOST ME I WANT ATTENTION.” Of course, demanding the spotlight while simultaneously shying away from it doesn’t make Claudia some super-savvy media manipulator. It just makes her like pretty much every other teenage girl. (And I say this as a former teenage girl.)
What is perverse and unwarranted isn’t the media’s focus on Claudia Conway; it’s how #resistance figures have fashioned her into some sort of liberal activist, a role she has neither claimed nor has any obligation whatsoever to take up. While it’s not exactly uncommon for Millennials and Boomers to bestow this mantle on Gen-Zers, it’s not one that Claudia herself has courted. Though she often posts about how much she loathes Trump, her TikToks feature just as often her shouting out her theology teacher or herself singing songs from the musical adaptation of the John Waters film Cry-Baby. (Her voice, for what it’s worth, is pretty good.) She comes off not like a preternaturally poised youth activist but like a smart, sensitive teenage girl looking to make some fire content, and she should be free to do so without resistance libs foisting the “whistleblower” label onto her, especially when she has explicitly rejected it.
More to the point, Claudia Conway is in no position to save anyone. If anything, given her young age and how frequently she’s publicly discussed her family woes, she may herself need saving. Aside from tweets about years of childhood anguish, Claudia has also alluded to the deleterious impact her mother’s role in the White House has had on her own family: “My mother’s job ruined my life to begin with. heartbreaking that she continues to go down that path after years of watching her children suffer. selfish. it’s all about money and fame, ladies and gentlemen,” she tweeted in August.
Needless to say, this does not sound like someone who should be fawned over by liberals, most of whom are much older and should know better. This sounds like someone who could benefit from having a sober-minded, non-self-absorbed adult in the room. It sounds like someone who, like many teenage girls before her, is going through a rough time and is turning to alternate sources of comfort. It’s not exactly unusual that Claudia Conway’s drug of choice is her social media audience.
What is unusual is that audience is demanding something of her that she is ill equipped to give. It doesn’t matter that we, too, are living in an era of a pandemic and a tumultuous election and the brink of the collapse of American democracy, and that we might benefit from having an adult in the room as well. That person cannot be Claudia Conway, because she needs it more than we do.