On 27 February 2017, a series of photographs depicting White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway sitting with her feet (and shoes) underneath her on an Oval Office couch caused a stir on social media:
— darth™ (@darth) February 28, 2017
…does Kellyanne have a Snapchat we don’t know about? pic.twitter.com/M4nksMqh1d
— Kareem Yasin (@thekareem) February 28, 2017
The photographs prompted a number of articles and “hot takes,” along with some speculation they had been digitally created or altered, but the images were undeniably genuine.
The Associated Press reported that “decorum” in the White House was part of the ensuing discussion spurred by the pictures:
Photos of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway kneeling on an Oval Office couch with her shoes on have sparked an online debate about decorum in the executive mansion.
Conway is seen perched on her knees on the couch with her feet behind her in photos taken while President Donald Trump met with leaders of historically black colleges and universities.
Some Twitter users were quick to highlight the photos as evidence of a lack of respect for the office from Conway and the Trump administration. Other users have countered with numerous photos of former President Barack Obama resting his feet on the office’s famed Resolute desk at various times during his eight years in office.
The Washington Post characterized the controversy as “incredibly dumb,” noting that the full series of photographs showed Conway was simply trying to get into position to snap a picture of the gathering of leaders with President Trump:
This tempest in a teapot is, in a word, dumb. In two words: incredibly dumb.
First of all, every party not in the White House likes to express shock and outrage at the way the other side is treating this hallowed job and office. Republicans were incensed when Bill Clinton and Barack Obama treated the Oval Office with slightly less formality than did Ronald Reagan, who, famously, always wore a suit coat in the Oval Office.
Obama puts his feet on the desk! Obama throws a football!
This is all par for the Internet outrage/partisan police.
It was dumb when Republicans leveled the charge of Obama and Clinton disrespecting the White House. It is equally dumb now.
Then there is the specific context of the photo above. While not captured in most of the photos that initially circulated on the Web, other snaps of the moments following the initial picture show Conway just trying to get in position to take a photo of the gathering.
Conway was on the sofa to try to get a good angle to snap a photo. It’s not indicative of anything, or revealing of anything. It’s just someone trying to take a photo.