On Monday, Claudia Conway, the teenage daughter of Kellyanne and George Conway, was eliminated from American Idol, just one day after being improbably advanced in the singing competition.
And thank god, because Kellyanne Conway’s rehabilitation tour, carried out via her daughter’s stint on the show, was becoming increasingly transparent and deeply uncomfortable. Sunday’s episode, which featured the mother and daughter mugging for the camera and Kellyanne singing an Alicia Keys song—playing the role of the supportive mom—was only the latest example of how the former PR and communications professional used the show to launder her reputation, sullied not only by her time as Donald Trump’s biggest booster, but by familial dysfunction, which Claudia had begun documenting on social media in the summer of 2020.
This season of American Idol began filming last fall, right around the time Claudia shared publicly that she was “furious” her mother had contracted covid-19 and then transmitted it to her. But the show, which premiered in February, came shortly after Claudia publicly made more disturbing allegations about her mother, in a series of TikTok videos released mere weeks before the start of the season. Kellyanne, Claudia shared, was abusive; she appeared to physically hit her daughter in one video, verbally abusing her by calling Claudia a “dumbass” and an “ungrateful bitch” who should be happy her mom is “pro-life,” and allegedly sharing a topless photo of her daughter on her Twitter account, which Claudia claimed her mom had kept to potentially use against her. (Claudia later shared she believed the posting of the photo was the result of a hack.)
“I’m shaking, I don’t know what to do,” Claudia said in one video. “I’m literally at a loss for words... if you see it, report it. My mom deserves to go to jail, that’s unreal.”
What Claudia documented was child abuse, revelations that came after the show had already begun filming. But it was clear from how Claudia’s participation in the competition was framed that to the show’s producers and likely to her parents, her time on American Idol was a boon—a way to drum up interest and viewership in a show that has lost most of whatever relevance it once had and a way to repair the very damaged public image of a very public family. As Jezebel writer Ashley Reese wrote, no matter how willingly Claudia participated, it was exploitation by the adults in her life. “It’s disturbing enough that Idol obviously used Claudia’s accusations to draw viewers into the show’s season premiere. But more disturbing was that, during the episode, the relationship between Claudia and Kellyanne was depicted as merely fraught and frayed, a typical prickly mother-daughter relationship forced into an atypical situation.”
In light of Claudia’s allegations, Kellyanne’s performance on American Idol as a supportive, fun mom who at times clashes with her child as any mother would is revealed to be exactly that—a performance. It’s one that should never have been broadcast.