In a 12 March 2017 interview with Bergen County Record columnist Mike Kelly, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway posited that microwaves ovens can be used as surveillance tools, a remark that captured the attention of the news media almost immediately:

Kelly claimed “microwaves … turn into cameras” during the interview at her home in Alpine, New Jersey, which she maintained was “a fact of modern life”:

Conway … suggested that the alleged monitoring of activities at Trump’s campaign headquarters at Trump Tower in Manhattan may have involved far more than wiretapping.

“What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other … You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways.”

Conway went on to say that the monitoring could be done with “microwaves that turn into cameras,” adding: “We know this is a fact of modern life.”

In their coverage of Conway’s assertion regarding microwaves, the Washington Post surmised Conway was referencing recent news involving WikiLeaks and surveillance agencies:

Conway’s reference is apparently to a trove of alleged CIA hacking documents that were released by WikiLeaks last week. One of the tools described how Internet-connected Samsung TVs could effectively be turned into microphones — a tool dubbed “Weeping Angel.”

(For what it’s worth, the former head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, denied that such tools were being used against Americans: “I can tell you that these tools would not be used against an American.”)

So Conway wasn’t totally freelancing here, and she seemed to be riffing off something she had read in the news.

The inference that Conway was accusing former President Barack Obama of having surveilled Donald Trump’s campaign via microwave ovens at Trump Tower was one she disputed in a series of tweets:

Conway later appeared on multiple morning news shows and fielded questions about her microwave-related remarks, asserting she did not intend to insinuate President Obama had ordered such technologies be used to monitor Trump. On ABC’s Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos asked Conway for evidence to support her claims, and Conway replied that she did not have any information to substantiate the claim and stated she was speaking broadly about surveillance in general (not specifically about President Trump and his predecessor).

During a separate television appearance, Conway reiterated that she did not intend to accuse President Obama of having used microwaves to spy on Trump (in the process prompting a new round of media derision for proclaiming that “I’m not in the job of having evidence”):

In response to a similar line of questioning on CNN’s “New Day,” a program Conway and other White House officials have largely avoided in recent weeks, the counselor to the president said it was not her responsibility to provide evidence for an allegation.

“I’m not Inspector Gadget. I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign,” she said. “However, I’m not in the job of having evidence. That’s what investigations are for.”

CNN host Chris Cuomo pushed Conway on the issue, asking her why she even raised the use of household gadgets for surveillance purposes if it were not her intention to imply that Obama had done just that inside Trump Tower. “The question is why were you doing that?” Cuomo said. “Because this goes to personal integrity.”

“I’m allowed to talk about things that are in the news without you questioning anybody’s personal integrity,” Conway replied. Accusations that she intentionally leveled an allegation against Obama without evidence have come from at least in part from “other people who don’t necessarily want Donald Trump to be the president,” she said.

Kellyanne Conway’s remarks prompted the expected jokes as well as a parody Twitter account:

Sources:

Blake, Aaron.   “Yes, Kellyanne Conway Suggested Trump Tower Could Have Been Monitored Through TVs and Microwaves.”
    The Washington Post.   13 March 2017.

Kelly, Mike.   “Kellyanne Conway Suggests Even Wider Surveillance of Trump Campaign.”
    The [Bergen County] Record.   12 March 2017.

Nelson, Louis.   “Following Conway Interviews, Trump Slams ‘Rude’ Media.”
    Politico.   13 March 2017.