WH press corps learning the hard way - don't mess with Kayleigh

When Kayleigh McEnany was named as the new White House press secretary, replacing Stephanie Grisham, she looked to be a good choice. It’s proven to be true and the White House correspondents don’t quite know how to handle that.

McEnany is being tested by the press. She held the first White House press briefing on May 1 and since then has done two more. That’s three in the span of eight days, which is three more than her predecessor held. During the first one, she was asked by Reuters reporter Jeff Mason if she promises not to lie to them. She went along with that insult far more gracefully than most of us would and pledged to tell the truth. “I will never lie to you,” she said. Anti-Trump reporters wasted no time in fact-checking that statement because this is 2020 and the Orange Man is bad. You know the drill.

So, after giving Mason what he asked for, apparently, a weakness was assumed by the reporters and the level of discourse between the press and McEnany turned into personal attacks against her. Instead of asking questions about important topics of the day, during the second televised press briefing, she was asked about a previous statement she made in response to a question about President Trump’s travel restrictions to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. She turned the question back on the reporter, clearly well-prepared for such a question. Before dropping the mic and leaving the podium, she asked the following questions:

“I guess I would turn the question back on the media and ask similar questions: Does Vox want to take back that they proclaimed that the coronavirus would not be a deadly pandemic?”

“Does The Washington Post want to take back that they told Americans to get a grip, the flu is bigger than the coronavirus?”

“Does The Washington Post likewise want to take back that our brains are causing us to exaggerate the threat of the coronavirus?”

“Does the New York Times want to take back that fear of the virus may be spreading faster than the virus itself?”

“Does NPR want to take back that the flu was a much bigger threat than the coronavirus?”

While a WaPo reporter was quick to point out that some news organizations have since corrected their stances on the coronavirus and though the writer did admit Kayleigh was specifically asked about travel restrictions at the time, he continues in the same vein that other liberal media writers and reporters do – he continued to take her to task for perceived inaccuracies in her statements. Her’s is a “slippery defense”, you see.

I cringed a bit during the first press conference because it appeared that Kayleigh was bending a knee to reporters as a way of going along to get along when she pledged not to lie. So, after speaking up for herself and pushing back against that reporter’s question, I was cautiously optimistic that she would be stronger. By the time Friday rolled around and she held her third press briefing, she showed she is clearly up to the task.

PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor tried again to throw McEnany off message and asked her about some remarks she made in her pre-Trump campaign, pre-RNC spokesman, pre-Trump press secretary days. As a matter of fact, the remarks Alcindor asked her about were before Kayleigh was a CNN commentator, too. Upon hearing then-candidate Trump make some remarks about building a wall and justifying the wall by talking about rapists and murderers crossing over the U.S.- Mexican border – his “bad hombres” remarks – Kayleigh voiced displeasure with Trump’s language. Alcindor confronted Kayleigh about remarks made in 2015. It didn’t go well. Again, Kayleigh was prepared. The Daily Wire has the transcript.

“The second question I have is in 2015, shortly after the president said that some Mexican immigrants were rapists and criminals, you said that that language was racist and hateful,” PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor said. “Do you still believe that today?”

“Well, I’m actually glad you asked that because for about the first four weeks of the election, I was watching CNN and I was naively believing some of the headlines that I saw on CNN,” McEnany responded. “I’m actually not going to read the headlines, so I very quickly came around and supported the president. In fact, CNN hired me. I was on many eight-on-one panels where I proudly supported this president who I believe is one of the best presidents, if not the best president, this country will ever have.”

“But I would encourage the individual who did that analysis of my past, rather than focusing on me, he really should be focused on some of the very guests CNN chose to have on their network,” McEnany continued. “He should be focused on, I mean, over here, Jim Clapper, who said, 10 days before he privately told investigators there was no evidence of collusion, that Watergate pales in comparison to the Russia probe.”

“I’d encourage them to look at Samantha Powers who was privately saying, ‘I’m not in possession of any evidence of collusion.’ Ambassador Rice, ‘I don’t recall intelligence or evidence of any collusion.’ Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, ‘I do not recall that being briefed to me,’” McEnany continued. “And for three years, two years, probably more than that, CNN ran with the collusion narrative, and if the American people are watching you right now, you’re probably very confused as to some of the quotes I read, because those individuals were saying much different things publicly than they were saying privately. And I’m very grateful that those transcripts were released yesterday and perhaps the [CNN reporter] KFILE should to do an analysis of that.”

Yamiche Alcindor didn’t learn a thing from Jeff Mason or the reporter who asked about past remarks on Thursday. Did Alcindor think that Friday’s press briefing would go differently? It is refreshing to hear a press secretary in a Republican administration speak up and push back on liberal reporters who align themselves with Democrats in their attempts to take down this president. There are plenty of articles online trashing Kayleigh McEnany as someone unqualified to hold her position, including from one alumnus of Jeb! Bush and Jon Huntsman campaigns, who admits he wanted the job himself in either of those two men’s administrations. She’s well-educated (Harvard Law School, University of Oxford), articulate, quick on her feet, and she’s calm under pressure. Most of all, she is fearless in what she does. Let the haters hate.

I wrote in April when the transition was being made for her to take the position that I thought she’d be just fine in the role, given her history and experience as a fighter on CNN against multi-opponent panels of anti-Trumpers. So far, so good.