Fox News anchor Chris Wallace tore into White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Sunday morning for questioning the religious beliefs and faith of White House reporters, saying he’s never seen a press secretary act like that in his long career.
Following President Donald Trump’s Friday announcement in which he demanded that all houses of worship reopen “right now” and toothlessly threatened to “override” governors who have limited gatherings due to coronavirus restrictions, McEnany took a snide shot at the press corps.
Asked what federal powers Trump had to force states to open up places of worship during the pandemic, McEnany said the president would “strongly encourage” the governors that churches are essential before snarking that she found it “interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed.”
Noting that McEnany received strong pushback from reporter Jeff Mason, Wallace introduced a Fox News Sunday panel discussion on her remarks by taking issue with her suggestion that the press corps doesn’t care about religion.
“Donna, I spent six years in the White House briefing room covering Ronald Reagan. I have to say, I never—and in the years since too, I never saw a White House press secretary act like that,” Wallace declared to former Democratic National Committee interim chairperson Donna Brazile.
Brazile, who says she personally knows McEnany as an “extraordinary person,” said that this combative approach isn’t the “right posture” and McEnany should turn it down a “little bit.” Wallace, meanwhile, went on to further criticize the White House spokesperson for lecturing reporters on what questions they should ask her at the briefings.
“I have to say that if Kayleigh McEnany had told Sam Donaldson and me what questions we should ask, that would not have gone well,” the Fox anchor told The Dispatch’s Jonah Goldberg after playing a clip of McEnany browbeating reporters on the Michael Flynn “unmasking” story.
“What Donald Trump wants in a press secretary is a Twitter troll who goes on attack,” Goldberg replied. “Doesn’t actually care about doing the job they have, and instead wants to impress really an audience of one and make another part of official Washington another one of these essentially cable news and Twitter gladiatorial arenas.”
Wallace doubled down on Goldberg’s critique, adding: “Kayleigh McEnany isn’t acting like she’s working for the public. She acts like she is what she used to be, which is a spokesperson for the Trump campaign.”
After former Mitch McConnell chief of staff Josh Holmes largely defended McEnany and complained that Trump spokespeople always “find themselves under constant attack,” Wallace wrapped up the segment with one final observation.
“Let me just say, Sam Donaldson and me in the Reagan White House, we were pretty tough on the White House press secretaries and we never had our religious beliefs questioned or were lectured on what we should ask,” the veteran Fox anchor concluded.
Wallace’s unbridled criticism of McEnany and the White House’s press strategy is sure to raise the ire of Trump, who has frequently taken public potshots at the Fox News host. Last month, for instance, complained that Wallace was “even worse” than favorite Trump punching bag Chuck Todd, wondering what “the hell is happening to Fox News.”