Kayleigh McEnany did something on Friday that her predecessor at the White House never once did: she briefed reporters from behind the lectern in the cramped confines of the James S. Brady briefing room.
McEnany, President Trump’s fourth press secretary, took over the job less than a month ago from Stephanie Grisham, who had chosen to work behind the scenes, saying that Trump was his own best spokesman.
McEnany, who has a degree from Harvard Law School, rose to prominence with her fiery defenses of Trump on television news programs.
In the Friday news conference, McEnany said she expected to make the traditional press sessions a more regular occurrence in the briefing room and vowed to make truthfulness a priority in her role.
“I will never lie to you. You have my word on that,” she told reporters.
Prior to taking the helm as the White House’s lead spokeswoman, McEnany was a spokeswoman for Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee. Mark Meadows, Trump’s new chief of staff, moved her to the White House in an overhaul of the communications shop.
In the wide-ranging presser, McEnany addressed the administration’s coronavirus response and allegations of sexual assault against Trump and his rival for the 2020 White House, former Vice President Joe Biden.
She also took questions regarding the president’s tweet on Friday that armed protesters who stormed the Michigan Capitol demanding to speak to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were “very good people” and that the governor “should give a little, and put out the fire.”
McEnany said Trump encouraged protesters to act within the confines of the law and to practice social distancing, which many, according to video and photographs from the event, did not.
Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, became the butt of late-night comedy shows for his blustery near daily briefings. Under his next spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, the frequency of briefings tapered off.
What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!
Trump has been his own spokesman for much of the coronavirus pandemic, and for weeks he briefed the press almost daily. In March, while talking up the performance of his team in addressing the crisis, Trump said his White House had “done a poor job on press relationships.”
“The only thing we haven’t done well is to get good press. We’ve done a fantastic job, but it hasn’t been appreciated,” he said.
Last week, Trump said he wanted to stop his daily briefings, but he has continued to take questions from reporters on a near daily basis.
One of the first moves by Meadows, who took over as chief of staff in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, was to shake up press operations. He gave two of his longtime aides — Ben Williamson and Alyssa Farah — key leadership roles and brought in McEnany.
McEnany’s debut in the briefing room was announced in a late-night tweet by Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director, who was also elevated by Meadows in the press shop overhaul.
The room, known for its iconic royal blue chairs, will look a bit different for McEnany than it did for her predecessors. The White House Correspondents’ Association has been staggering assigned seats to improve social distancing and reduce the risk of spreading the virus, leaving many seats empty in the normally standing-room-only space.
McEnany had been seen in the press briefing room on Thursday and was asked whether she would resume the briefing tradition. “Never say never,” she replied.
“I Will Never Lie To You”: New White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Holds Her First Briefing
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday did something her predecessor never did: She held an official press briefing.
“I will never lie to you. You have my word on this,” she said in response to a question from Associated Press correspondent Jill Colvin.
She also told reporters that they do plan to continue the briefings and she will announce “timing forthcoming.”
She said that she is “normally with the president in the Oval Office” in response to a query of how she will relay how President Donald Trump is thinking on certain issues.
McEnany succeeded Stephanie Grisham as press secretary last month. Grisham never held an official briefing, and the last one was held was in March, 2019. As CNN noted, that was 417 days ago. As they asked questions, a number of reporters thanked McEnany for holding one.
Trump held his own briefings, night after night, with the coronavirus task force through much of March and April. But those were scaled back this week, in the aftermath of the president’s suggestion that injecting disinfectants could be tested as a coronavirus treatment. He later said that he had been sarcastic.
One of the first questions that McEnany was asked was about Trump’s comments about the coronavirus originating in a lab in Wuhan, and whether it is in conflict with a National Intelligence assessment that was less conclusive.
“Let me remind everyone, intelligence is just an estimate, and it’s up to policymakers to decide what to do with that intelligence,” she said.
For about 40 minutes, McEnany swiftly answered questions, and her experience as a cable news commentator, as one of the president’s staunchest defenders, was clear. But some of the same concerns among the members of the media remained: Her criticism of the way that China handled the early outbreak of coronavirus ignored the president’s own praise of Beijing.
Not too surprisingly, she was asked about allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault that have been made against Trump. Earlier in the day, Trump told podcast host Dan Bongino that Tara Reade, who is accusing Joe Biden of sexual assault, is “far more convincing” than Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Biden appeared on Morning Joe on Friday and denied Reade’s claims.
“Leave it to the media to really take an issue about the former Vice President and turn it on the president and bring up accusations from four years ago,” she said. But there are other accusers since then, including E. Jean Carroll, who claimed last year that Trump assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman store in the mid-1990s. He has denied the claim.
New Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Says White House Daily Briefings Are Back
The last White House press briefing was held 417 days ago by Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “We do plan to continue these,” McEnany said Friday.
Clad in a sharp black buttoned blazer and a silver cross necklace, Kayleigh McEnany made her first appearance at the podium on Friday afternoon as President Trump’s new White House press secretary.
In doing so, McEnany gave the first White House press briefing in 417 days, dating back to when Sarah Huckabee Sanders served in the role in March 2019.
When asked whether McEnany would be holding daily press briefings moving forward, she replied, “We do plan to continue these.”
McEnany recently took over as press secretary from Stephanie Grisham, who did not hold a single press briefing during her tenure in the role, essentially ending what was once a daily tradition.
After making a brief announcement, she turned quickly to questions from reporters, who greeted her and welcomed her to the role.
“Welcome to the podium for the first time,” Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts told McEnany, before asking a question about the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Welcome to the podium as well,” NBC News White House correspondent Kristin Welker said.
A reporter asked McEnany to pledge to the White House press corps that she would never lie in her role as press secretary.
“I will never lie to you,” McEnany said. “You have my word on that.”
Asked about her access to President Trump, McEnany said that she’s “consistently with him, absorbing his thinking” and will be conveying that thinking to the White House press corps.
In holding regular press briefings again, McEnany’s appearances could essentially be replacing the president’s coronavirus task force briefings, which have stopped in recent days after being an almost daily occurrence for weeks.
“We allow the news of the day to guide us,” McEnany said when asked about the coronavirus briefings. “I encourage the media to convey the facts to the American people.”