“I will never lie to you. You have my word on that,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told journalists in her first briefing on May 1.
McEnany hasn’t, uh, exactly kept her word. To be clear, part of the job of the White House Press Secretary is to make the boss look good, and when that boss is President Donald Trump, your job becomes near-impossible. But to be even more clear, McEnany knew what this job entailed and took it anyway. And so, she keeps at it.
In early September, at the height of a pandemic and with a sky-high unemployment rate, McEnany used her platform to disparage House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, playing on loop a video of Pelosi walking maskless through a hair salon that was supposed to be closed under local regulations. The Pelosi situation is complicated (she shouldn’t have flouted the rules, but also seems to have been set up by a Trump supporter), but what isn’t complicated is the fact that the president regularly goes maskless and holds huge rallies at which attendees are generally mask-free. Meanwhile, in the same press conference, McEnany also defended Trump’s baseless assertions that you can vote twice. Later in the day, she lied about Trump’s disrespect for and mocking of veterans and military members after The Atlantic reported that the president publicly called them "losers" and "suckers." All in a day’s work!
A Harvard Law graduate who got her start as a Trump-supporting talking head on CNN — she went to great lengths to defend his Access Hollywood tape, saying his words implied consent — McEnany comes to her briefings armed with cherry-picked statements that serve to undermine the media’s credibility. She has turned the podium into a vehicle for bullying journalists, attacking Democratic politicians, and cheerleading the White House’s far-right agenda, rarely if ever substantively engaging with the media’s questions.
McEnany is a reflection of Trump's “interest in delegitimizing government institutions, but also the media. I see her as an instrument of him,” Towson University political science professor Martha Kumar told the Columbia Journalism Review.
The fourth person to hold the job in three-and-a-half years, McEnany has already told a truly impressive number of lies. I have been keeping a folder labeled “Kayleigh’s lies” in my Gmail since May to keep tabs on the then-new press secretary, filled with transcripts of White House press briefings. And, let me tell you, it’s eating up a lot of my storage space. Here are some of her “greatest hits.”
In her very first briefing on May 1, McEnany said allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, including sexual assault, are “verifiably false.”
In that same briefing, McEnany said there was an “unfair target on the back of General Michael Flynn,” Trump’s former national security advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
She then defended Flynn by falsely saying there was an FBI note that said “we need to get [Flynn] to lie" in order to "get him fired." The note actually said, "What's our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired? If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ & have them decide. Or, if he initially lies, then we present him [redacted] & he admits it, document for DOJ, & let them decide how to address it.” A federal judge ruled that Flynn was not politically targeted.
McEnany said the Mueller report was a “complete and total exoneration” of Trump.
Also on May 1, McEnany mischaracterized one of Trump’s tweets, which called armed anti-lockdown protestors “very good people,” saying he was “referencing generally that in this country you have a First Amendment right to protest.”
He was clearly praising these specific protestors. But, in her first day on the job, McEnany was already an expert Trump whisperer, making his lies and attacks sound like reasonable statements.
In that same press conference (This is still May 1! It was an eventful briefing!), McEnany responded to questions about the multiple sexual assault accusations against Trump that they are “accusations from four years ago that were asked and answered in the form of the vote of the American people.”
That’s not how it works — allegations of sexual assault and harassment don’t magically go away once you become president. Also, writer E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a fitting room in 2019.
On May 15, when asked exactly what crimes are involved in the fictional “Obamagate,” McEnany said, “Mistruths that were said under oath.”
On May 21, after Trump threatened to override governors’ decisions on reopening churches, which is illegal, McEnany declared churches as “essential” and said it was “interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed.” She also called it an "injustice" that governors deem liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but not houses of worship.
Reporters pushed back, saying some of them are church-goers. Additionally, churches have been known to be coronavirus-spreading sites, as most services are conducted inside, and involve singing and close contact. Abortion clinics are medical facilities and, as such, provide an essential service. Liquor stores, like other food and beverage retail establishments, have restrictions like mask-wearing in place, making it possible to stay safe while visiting one. (Besides, you’d think McEnany would want to support as many businesses as possible remaining open.)
On May 28, McEnany said the U.S. healthcare system was “ready” for the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic.
On May 28, McEnany said Trump's “intent is always to give truthful information to the American people.”
On June 1, McEnany said Trump has a “long history of condemning white supremacy and racism.”
When asked why Trump hasn't designated white supremacists as domestic terrorists, she lied. Trump called the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017 "very fine people." In the past months, he has constantly boosted white supremacists on Twitter while vilifying the people participating in protests against police violence.
Amid ongoing protests against racist violence following the police killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans, the president continued to post tweets and retweet unverified videos and information in order to stoke division. McEnany has become his Twitter rant-defender-in-chief: After being asked why Trump would post a video of two toddlers that had been doctored to make it look like the Black child is running away from the white child, McEnany pivoted to talking about an unrelated CNN clip from 2019.
On June 22, McEnany said Trump doesn't use the racist term “kung flu” to describe coronavirus — after he was recorded saying it.
On June 29, McEnany said Trump had not been briefed on the bounties an intelligence assessment reportedly said Russia put on the heads of American soldiers in Afghanistan.
On July 9, McEnany said that Trump's tax returns are under audit and can't be released.
"You know, the media has been asking this question for four years, and for four years, the President has said the same thing: His taxes are under audit, and when they're no longer under audit, he will release them," McEnany said. But, Trump's own lawyer Rudy Giuliani has admitted that the tax returns are not under audit.
On July 13, McEnany said Trump has a “great record” on LGBTQ+ issues.
According to GLAAD's Trump Accountability Project, Trump has made at least 172 attacks against the LGBTQ+ community so far in his presidency.
On July 16, McEnany falsely claimed that it is safe to reopen schools.
"We really would like to see schools open. As has been clear, we don’t think our children should be locked up at home with devastating consequences when it’s perfectly safe for them to go to school as emphasized by many medical experts. … The science should not stand in the way of this," she said.
It’s a good thing we have the White House Press Secretary to stand up for a children’s show on Nickelodeon, we guess, but the show was actually not canceled — McEnany’s lie was just another way to push pro-cop propaganda.
On August 4, McEnany accused Joe Biden of “hiding in a basement,” echoing Trump and Fox News.
Joe Biden has been campaigning for president. I know this thanks to multiple emails I get every hour from his campaign updating me on his whereabouts.
On August 4, McEnany said there is “ample evidence of fraud” when it comes to the absentee system and vote by mail.
On August 26, McEnany said Trump wants to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.
In her speech at the Republican National Convention, McEnany told the story of how she underwent a preventive mastectomy and Trump called to ask how she was doing immediately after her surgery. “I can tell you that this president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions,” she said. In fact, he has worked round-the-clock, in Congress and in the courts, to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which protects 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.
During the first presidential debate, President Donald Trump was directly asked to condemn white supremacy. He not only refused to do so, but instead invoked a call to arms, causing celebration among white supremacist groups. When the press sought clarification the next day, he said, "I've always denounced — any form, any form, any form of any of that — you have to denounce," refusing to say "white supremacy" when being pressed. In a briefing, McEnany said, "His record on this is unmistakable and it’s shameful that the media refuses to cover it." His record is unmistakable — unmistakably praising of white supremacists.