Let’s face it, Donald Trump’s senior counselor and ‘alternative facts’ enthusiast Kellyanne Conway has serious issues with the truth. In fact, some TV networks say they no longer trust her answers enough to put her on their shows. But they aren’t the first to reject the Trump counselor for a lack of credibility.
A Business Insider piece revealed in 2007, Conway — then a Republican pollster running the research firm The Polling Company — was hired as an expert witness by Whole Foods in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission in Washington.
According to the report:
“The FTC sued Whole Foods that year to block the upscale grocery chain’s purchase of Wild Oats, a North American grocery store chain known similarly for its organic products, arguing the merger would reduce competition for organic goods and increase food prices in several markets. To support this, the FTC produced a series of internal company emails and public blog posts that showed the company’s desire for Wild Oats’ “monopoly” over its local markets.
During the case, Whole Foods retained Conway to design a survey to support the testimony of David Scheffman, a former FTC official with experience testifying on behalf of companies in antitrust suits. He argued that Whole Foods and Wild Oats shoppers frequently shopped at other grocery chains and that these other supermarkets competed for the business of crossover customers.
In other words, he was arguing that Whole Foods and Wild Oats couldn’t raise prices without losing customers to competing grocers, voiding the FTC’s concerns about a monopoly.
But it didn’t exactly pan out for Conway or the mega-supermarket chain.
The DC District Court threw out Conway’s survey, saying it would not give “any weight or consideration” to it because of its methodology.
The court found that the FTC’s expert witness, Kent Van Liere, presented compelling evidence about the study’s drawbacks, which the agency said suffered “serious and fatal design flaws, poor execution, and conclusions that are inconsistent with the survey’s results,” and failed to “meet basic standards” of survey research.
“My overall opinion in this matter is that Ms. Conway’s survey methodology and procedures are fundamentally flawed and render her data and results unreliable,” Van Liere testified, according to July 2007 court documents. “In addition, it is my opinion that her survey does not provide a reliable basis to assess the issues associated with consumer perceptions of the substitutability of products and services across food retailers.”
Van Liere said Conway’s response rate was “so low that her results cannot be considered reliable” and included “unqualified respondents” who could not “understand or could not complete the questions accurately.” Her response rate, according to Van Liere, varied “from 6 percent to 0.5 percent” of callers the pollsters attempted to reach, and over 20% did not reside in the zip codes designated in the survey.”
The court agreed that the survey was too complicated.
“Inconsistent survey results reveal the presence of underlying flaws in the survey design itself, such as the presentation of questions that are confusing, complex, and poorly worded, which here led to unreliable results,” the FTC argued in its July memorandum in support of excluding Conway’s testimony.
Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, told Business Insider the results suggested the court was correct that the survey was confusing.
“It was very curious that Conway’s survey claimed to have interviewed respondents who were in the designated zip codes, yet included respondents who didn’t live in the zip codes.”
According to Business Insider, Conway, Whole Foods, and The Polling Company did not respond to requests for comment.