President Trump named his fourth White House press secretary on Tuesday, and it is conservative propagandist and birther Kayleigh McEnany. The 31-year-old Harvard Law graduate, former CNN contributor, and national spokesperson for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign follows in the footsteps of Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Stephanie Grisham, who neglected to hold a single briefing as press secretary and will be returning to the East Wing as first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff.
Her early skepticism about the potential impact of the new coronavirus doesn’t quite inspire confidence in the midst of a global pandemic and national public health crisis: Appearing on Fox News on February 25, when she was head of press for the Trump 2020 campaign, McEnany said: “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here...and isn’t it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”
That was but one of many erroneous claims made by McEnany in her illustrious on-air career. While many Trump staffers exit to tread the well-worn pipeline to Fox News pundit, McEnany is doing the reverse: joining the White House after years of on-air bloviating. (She got her start as a producer on Mike Huckabee’s former Fox News show.) In 2012, she signaled support for the racist, propagandist birther movement against Barack Obama (as did her now boss, Trump).
As a token conservative pundit on CNN, her greatest hits included sparring with Van Jones in the wake of the 2016 election, as Jones presciently expressed concern that Trump would place undocumented immigrants in internment camps. “Donald Trump has never proposed internment camps,” McEnany argued—another claim that has not aged well.
After leaving CNN in 2017, McEnany moved on to supporting Trump even more baldly, “anchoring” acutely biased Trump TV news briefings that former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said felt “eerily” like state TV.
In McEnany, who has loyally echoed Trump’s go-to cries of “fake news,” the White House installs yet another press secretary poised to have an adversarial relationship with the press. The irony is that McEnany, like the president, is a longtime purveyor of fake news herself. It’s an especially troubling hire at a time of crisis, when clear communication of the facts could not be more integral.
Like Grisham before her, “it is unclear whether Ms. McEnany will revive the traditional role of a White House press secretary—answering questions from reporters in a daily briefing,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman observed on Tuesday. Rather, she noted, new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows “wants [McEnany] to focus on defending the president on television.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Originally Appeared on Vogue