ABC lambasted over Claudia Conway’s ‘American Idol’ appearance: ‘Worst exploitation of a minor’

ABC was criticized by Variety writer Daniel D’Addario for featuring Claudia Conway, daughter of George and Kellyanne Conway, as a contestant for “American Idol,” accusing the network of the “worst exploitation of a minor.”

The Sunday night appearance was the latest bit of fame for the teen after she first gained attention for posting TikTok videos last year criticizing her mother for her work serving as a political counselor for former President Donald Trump.

In addition, Claudia, 16, also garnered hundreds of thousands of views when she dished on her soured relationship with her parents, leading Kellyanne to leave the White House and father George to take a break from his law firm and involvement with the embattled Lincoln Project.

Last month, however, after Claudia auditioned in the fall for American Idol, she raised eyebrows when she took to social media to accuse her mother of sharing a topless photo of her to Twitter under the new Fleets feature, after stealing her smartphone and seeing the picture. 

Claudia later posted another video to her TikTok account backtracking from her accusation while pleading with followers not to contact police; authorities in New Jersey launched a probe anyway.

Despite the drama, ABC went ahead with plans to put Claudia on the show and then promoted it very heavily in the lead-up to Sunday’s broadcast.

George Conway was seen accompanying his daughter to the audition, which took place last fall amid the family’s very public problems, while mother Kellyanne also appeared by video. One of the show’s judges, Katy Perry, recognized the teen and asked how she was.

“Are you okay?” Perry said. 

“No, but yes!” Claudia Conway responded with a laugh. 

Later, Kellyanne Conway gave advice to her daughter as well as encouragement. 

“This is your time to shine. But remember, honey, winners are people who are willing to lose,” she said.

The teen appeared in two segments, singing Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” and Adele’s “When We Were Young.” Her performance earned her an advancement by the judges to the Hollywood finals round meaning she’ll be seen in later episodes as well.

D’Addario recounted the Conways’ drama in his piece as he commented on how the family’s problems have been played out in public.

“With the problem of Claudia’s parents seemingly beyond anyone’s ability to solve for now, television took up the case of redefining her in the public eye, on the new season of ‘American Idol,’” he wrote. “A series whose long-term mission has been making ordinary people into celebrities now seeks to convert a celebrity into an ordinary person, and to borrow some of her ability to spark conversation along the way.

“The game is rigged. What seems at first to be Claudia’s chance to ‘get out of the political whatever’ becomes a lengthy mandate to delve into, and finally to put a happy face on, a story that Claudia has tried, in fits and starts, to tell on her own terms,” he added. “She’s ceded, or had taken from her, the chance to do that, with the promise that what she’d get in return would be a fresh start. What ABC has done here is wrong, and should merit deep reflection on the part of producers and executives.”

In teasing his column on Twitter, D’Addario was much more critical of ABC.

“Claudia Conway’s appearance … the worst sort of exploitation of a minor that reality TV has done in memory — ought to prompt real soul-searching among ABC executives,” he wrote.

Jon Dougherty

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