Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blamed the Trump transition team for how it handled her Senate confirmation hearing in January, saying she was “undercoached” and prohibited from defending herself in the media, which crippled her ability to respond to criticisms for weeks.
Many Democrats accused DeVos of being unprepared for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in January, as she struggled to answer questions on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and school accountability, among others.
In one exchange about gun-free zones around schools, DeVos said she would “imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” referring to a school in Wyoming.
Reflecting on her confirmation in an interview with Politico, DeVos blamed the transition team for her performance.
“I think I was undercoached,” DeVos told Politico. “The transition group was very circumspect about how much information they gave me about then-current policy and … it was in their view a balance between being prepared for a confirmation hearing and not having well-formed opinions on what should or shouldn’t change, so as not to get caught in a confirmation hearing making commitments that then I wouldn’t want to or be able to keep. And in hindsight, I wish I had a whole lot more information.”
DeVos also said she was unable to defend herself or her policy positions in interviews with the media, including friendly shows such as “Good Morning America."
“During the confirmation process, I wasn’t able to talk with the media at all. I wasn’t able to express anything from my perspective," she said. "So it gave weeks and weeks of open shots for my opponents to take.”
DeVos was ultimately confirmed by the Senate 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. The vote to confirm DeVos marked the first time a vice president had to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination.