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Maddow's Reminder: Trump's New Campaign Manager Is a First for Women

Maddow's Reminder: Trump's New Campaign Manager Is a First for Women

Rachel Maddow and Kellyanne Conway

Rachel Maddow took on Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, in a lengthy and substantive interview on Wednesday.

It was a tough interview, in which out MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow didn't let Donald Trump's new campaign manager escape questions about whether the candidate still wants to ban all Muslims. (The answer: depends on the country.) Or, whether he's said sorry even privately to unnamed people Trump says he regrets hurting. (No apology.) Maddow even got confirmation on whether disgraced Fox News chief Roger Ailes is really part of the campaign. (He isn't.)

But despite the topic being Trump, there was one thing Maddow wants her viewers to remember about her guest, Kellyanne Conway, who she interviewed beyond the span of two commercial breaks.

Maddow began each segment by reminding viewers that Conway had made history as the first woman to run a Republican presidential campaign in the general election -- an underappreciated fact lost amongst the drama of Trump's second campaign shake-up. Maddow began the interview by congratulating Conway.

"Let me start by saying congratulations," said Maddow. "This is your first presidential-campaign-manager gig, obviously. But it's also the first time any woman has managed a Republican presidential campaign ever. So you're in history for that."

It's probably worth noting that Conway's counterpart as campaign manager, Robby Mook at the Clinton campaign, is the first out LGBT person to run a campaign. And if Mook wins, and Conway loses, the nation would have its first woman president. There are a lot of firsts to go around.

"I didn't even know I was the first female Republican campaign manager until someone pointed it out to me on Twitter," said Conway, "and I said that can't be true. And then I realized, this must be such a small group of women. And right away, I know them all -- Susan Estrich, and Donna Brazile, and Beth Myers -- and I respect them enormously."

Estrich was the very first woman to lead a presidential campaign, running the Michael Dukakis campaign in 1988. Brazile, who led the 2000 Gore campaign, is also the first African-American to ever be a presidential campaign manager. She's known these days for her analysis on CNN and last month took over at the Democratic National Committee when Debbie Wasserman-Shultz stepped down. Myers is a Republican who led Mitt Romney's failed 2008 bid, which ended in the primary. Maddow asked how Conway got the Trump job.

"I think I got the job through the way Donald Trump has promoted women through the Trump corporation for decades: through merit," she said. Conway said she went in and spoke to Trump, who she told "I felt like we'd been losing for a couple of weeks." Conway says Trump appreciates that "I don't sugar coat things, but I'm very polite in delivering them."

The interview was incisive (and it's available to watch below) but it ended as magnanimously as it began, with Conway returning the compliment of Maddow. The unsolicited praise was perhaps notable because when Conway was named campaign manager, the Human Rights Campaign issued a news release reminding voters that Conway is a former Ted Cruz operative who once consulted as a pollster for the National Organization for Marriage. It also noted Conway had complained in 2005 about lesbian characters on television, saying people "don't want their kids looking at a cartoon with a bunch of lesbian mothers." On Wednesday, though, none of that was on display.

"Thanks for having me, Rachel," said Conway. "I know you work hard, I work hard, but not every woman gets what we got, which is our shot. For that I'm most grateful, and I feel most blessed."

Conway said she watched Maddow during her early years on MSNBC, when she was as a liberal analyst on a conservative show called Scarborough Country and guested on other shows. Conway remembered thinking, "She should have her own show, and I respect you enormously."

"And back at you," said Maddow, "I think you have made history, and I think women breaking glass ceilings in politics is always important whenever it happens."

Watch the interview in segments below:

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