One of the enduring images of the presidential campaign was Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon playfully tousling president-elect Trump’s hair, in an attempt to make him seem cutesy and down-to-earth. So it was somewhat refreshing to see Fallon’s peer, Late Night host Seth Meyers, come as directly was possible when interviewing Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who’s firmly established herself as the most put-together—and most dangerous—spokesperson of the whole Trump team.
Meyers’ interview with Conway, which aired last night, was taped late enough in the day that he could immediately ask her about a new CNN report alleging that Trump was briefed on Russia’s attempt to influence the presidential campaign, and summarily ignored it. What followed was an intensely passive-aggressive tête–à–tête between people who are very, very good at what they do. Conway would dispute a claim, and Meyers would push past it. She claimed the report was unsourced; he pointed out it was based on a report from British intelligence. She said Trump was never briefed; he said the report indicated he was. Whenever she tried to pull it back to the Hillary campaign, he’d quickly concede that Hillary fucked it up—true!—before returning to asking about Trump.
It was a minor master class in how to grill an opponent without losing face. Meyers isn’t Walter Cronkite or anything, but a lesser host would’ve let Conway’s claims lie—or avoided the subject altogether. Conway, a perma-smiling professional who never breaks kayfabe, clearly understood she was in unfriendly territory—at one point, she turned to the crowd, who’d laughed heartily when she referred to Trump as a “successful, brilliant businessman,” and admonished them for presumably voting for the losing party.
But her composed condescension was undermined by the fact that Meyers, whose grin was even wider, wasn’t too troubled by the obfuscation. His jovial demeanor matched Conway’s; the absence of anger meant he never seemed rattled, or petty, in his insistence on reputing her claims. The resistance will manifest in many different ways, but gently refusing a spin artist’s propaganda efforts on public television is the least Meyers and his peers can do.