On Sunday evening, ABC viewers watched as Claudia Conway auditioned on American Idol. The daughter of former Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway and staunch Never Trump-er George Conway made it to the next round after singing an Adele and a Rihanna song. George was with Claudia at the audition, and Kellyanne made a virtual appearance.
Claudia gets a surprise from her mother, @KellyannePolls!
— American Idol (@AmericanIdol) February 15, 2021
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) February 15, 2021
Of course, Claudia is already well-known by virtue of her politically infamous parents, who star in in what may be Washington’s most fascinating marriage. The 16-year-old has also garnered attention for her TikTok videos, in which she has spoken out against her mother’s support of Trump, recorded arguments between herself and her mother, and accused Kellyanne of physical and verbal abuse. Her mother also allegedly posted a topless photo of Claudia on Twitter last month.
Due to the dark and upsetting content that Claudia has posted about her family, there was immediate backlash to American Idol’s decision to use the Conway family’s turmoil and a child’s emotional trauma as a narrative for Claudia’s audition.
“If the show is concerned that Claudia lost what has elapsed so far of her youth, the way to redress it would not be by having her spend some small portion of her teen years practicing her persona for millions on TV; if it wanted her to be able to suss out who Claudia is, it might allow her to do it elsewhere and then come back for season 21,” writes Variety film critic Daniel D’Addario in a column. “What ABC has done here is wrong, and should merit deep reflection on the part of producers and executives.”
Across the internet, users had similar reactions, likening the episode to exploitation and a chance for Kellyanne to rehab her image. We rounded up some responses below:
You know how we've been having a reckoning w/media treatment of Britney and countless other young women in the 90s? And we've been reliving horrific interviews, sick to our stomach?
Now remember that Claudia Conway is currently 16 years old and think before you comment about her
— Erin Biba (@erinbiba) February 15, 2021
American Idol is gross for allowing an abusive creature like Kellyanne Conway to rehab her image on the show, and using Claudia Conway's pain to make a quick buck.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) February 15, 2021
I'd say my favorite part of the Claudia Conway American Idol saga is how they sought to humanize the woman who served as a shameless, lying mouthpiece for 4 years for a despot who only weeks ago incited an insurrection that almost left the VP & Speaker of the House assassinated.
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) February 15, 2021
It feels like ABC is exploiting Claudia Conway, right? Just like several journalists did, to a child that's been in crisis.
This feels wrong & I can't watch #AmericanIdol
— Kristen Parisi (@Kris10Parisi) February 15, 2021
I wanted to be happy for Claudia Conway to be on American Idol, but to see the show using her abusive family dynamics to get attention to the show is just pic.twitter.com/l0it9CXE8F
— Leave Wanda Alone! (@khaleesi_britt) February 15, 2021
Remember when I said the allegations of abuse Claudia Conway Meade towards her mother, Kellyanne Conway, would have triggered an investigation & possible removal if they were Black? Now they’re in a reality show. https://t.co/vbZF67SiUL
— Midwin Charles, Esq. (@MidwinCharles) February 15, 2021
Claudia Conway on American Idol is really gross. I hope we also start to pay more attention to the ad and views-driven exploitation of famous kid influencers. Danielle Cohn (4.6M on Insta) was modeling Fashion Nova bikinis at age 12.
— Kat Tenbarge (@kattenbarge) February 15, 2021
I can't put into words why, but something about Claudia Conway on American Idol fresh off highly publicized family drama and mental breakdown feels viscerally wrong to me, my body physically rejects the entire premise
— Michael Vera ?️ (@MushroomsOnMarz) February 15, 2021
TV show To Catch a Predator exploited serious crime against children for profit/ratings. @AmericanIdol exploits Claudia Conway in similar matter. @KellyannePolls @gtconway3d involved in serious event in our country. Now using that recognition to have daughter on tv show? Wrong
— Dolores Pastor (@DoloresPastor3) February 15, 2021