After just 10 months on the job, and without holding a single press briefing, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham left her post to rejoin First Lady Melania Trump’s staff, opening up the position to former cable-news pundit and current Trump campaign flack Kayleigh McEnany.
The 31-year-old has experienced something of a meteoric rise within MAGA ranks over the past four years. After interning for Republican politicians and working on Mike Huckabee’s Fox News show, McEnany burst onto the public scene as a pro-Trump CNN commentator during the 2016 election. Her unwavering support for Trump and commitment to defending any and every position he took resulted in her gig as the Republican National Committee’s national spokesperson in August 2017 (following a one-day turn as a Trump TV host). And in February 2019, she moved up to the Trump campaign, serving as its national press secretary.
McEnany’s predecessor notably didn’t hold a single press briefing during her tenure but did make dozens of appearances on Trump-friendly Fox News, a habit the new press secretary will almost assuredly continue. If history is any indication, McEnany will be comfortable in the role of appearing regularly on Fox and occasionally getting into bizarro battles with CNN hosts.
Behold, some of McEnany’s greatest hits:
‘We Will Not See Diseases Like Coronavirus Come Here’
Weeks before the United States saw more than 360,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and the U.S. death toll topped 10,000, McEnany confidently declared that the virus would not hit our shores.
Appearing on Trish Regan’s Fox Business show in late February—Regan was later axed by the network after calling the disease an “impeachment scam”—McEnany lauded the president’s partial Chinese travel ban as having stopped the threat of a pandemic in the U.S.
Because of the travel restrictions, “we will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here,” she exclaimed. “And isn’t it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama."
McEnany’s assertion that Americans needn’t worry about the spread of COVID-19 came on the same day that Trump’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow now-infamously declared that the outbreak was “contained” in the U.S.
The Time She Attacked Biden for Suspending Rallies Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Two weeks after saying the pandemic wouldn’t hit America, McEnany took a position so bonkers that even Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney, a notable Trump loyalist, was left seemingly dumbfounded.
Even as the White House coronavirus task force called for limits on crowd sizes to stem the spread of the virus in early March, McEnany defiantly told Varney that the Trump campaign would not cancel any events and then pivoted to attacking Joe Biden for not holding rallies during the outbreak.
“Look, we have the commander in chief, we have the best health experts, we are taking it day by day, we are currently proceeding as normal,” she said. “And look, Joe Biden, he’s suspending his rallies. He’s been dying to get off the campaign trail. The man can only speak for seven minutes. No wonder he wants to suspend his rallies.”
Varney, for his part, pointed out that the White House had already been “accused of chaos” and the Trump campaign is “immediately going to be hit with this” if they ignore warnings to host mass gatherings.
Nevertheless, McEnany persisted with the surreal deflection: “Joe Biden is looking for an excuse to get off the campaign trail. The media’s best hope is for Donald Trump to suspend his rallies. They have been wanting him to stop this, they know it’s his avenue to speak directly to the American people. So we’re going to follow the president’s lead, we’re not going to cave to the media and Joe Biden, we’re certainly not going to follow his lead as he tries to hide from the people.”
When She Declared That ‘Trump Has Never Lied to the American People’
McEnany is well-seasoned in the Trumpian art of lying with abandon, knowing the president and his base will reward you. In August 2019, McEnany returned to her old home of CNN to face off with Chris Cuomo, resulting in an on-air trainwreck that was so bad that the anchor’s CNN colleague Don Lemon immediately scolded him for subjecting the network’s audience to it.
At one point in their overly dramatic back-and-forth, McEnany took issue with Cuomo referencing the president’s well-known and documented history of false statements, firing back that “he doesn’t lie” and that “the press lies.”
After an incredulous Cuomo asked if she believes the president has ever dealt in fabrications, McEnany proved her undying loyalty to Trump.
“No, I don’t believe the president has lied,” she asserted, eventually prompting the CNN anchor to end the interview. Lemon, meanwhile, would later tell Cuomo that McEnany “has no credibility” and it’s a disservice to the network’s viewers to bring her on as they get “nothing from her because she doesn’t tell the truth.”
Trump Has ‘Categorically Denounced’ Racism
During a May 2018 appearance on Fox Business Network, McEnany was asked why the president hadn’t spoken out against then-sitcom star Roseanne Barr’s explicitly racist comments that eventually resulted in her losing her hit ABC show (Remember that? What a quaint time).
According to McEnany, it was due to the fact that Trump—he of “shithole countries,” Mexican “rapists,” and “laziness is a trait in blacks” fame—had already universally condemned all forms of racism.
“The president has come out multiple times saying he denounces all racism. We all denounce racism, that would include the president,” she said, adding, “I don’t think the president has to go around calling out every single private citizen making denunciations… He’s denounced racism categorically, he’s said there is no place for it… that’s sufficient.”
Her Incoherent Defense of Trump’s Golfing Habits
While still a CNN pundit, McEnany struggled early in Trump’s White House tenure to defend his constant golf outings after he spent years attacking his predecessor for spending too much time on the links.
In March 2017, just two months after taking office, Trump had already racked up 13 days of golf despite previously claiming he’d be “too busy” as president to ever hit the course.
Confronted by Don Lemon on her own past tweets bashing President Barack Obama for his golfing habit, McEnany attempted to defend herself and Trump with a truly bizarre spin move involving George W. Bush.
“Because, when President Bush took time off from the golf course in honor of the Iraq War, you had President Obama, who after the beheading of Daniel Pearl, spoke to how upset he was about that and then rushed off to a golf game,” she proclaimed.
Pearl, of course, was killed in 2002 when Obama was still just a state senator in Illinois.
Of Course, She Was Also a Birther
Speaking of Obama, before McEnany made her name as a pro-Trump TV pundit, she spent her time like a lot of conservatives did in 2012: Casually embracing the racist “birther” movement that claimed Obama was not a U.S.-born citizen. Of course, this same conspiracy theory is what launched her future boss, President Trump, fully into the right-wing political sphere.
“How I Met Your Brother -- Never mind, forgot he’s still in that hut in Kenya. #ObamaTVShows,” McEnany tweeted in August 2012.
And days earlier, she wrote: “birth certificates and college transcripts #ThingsThatEnrageDemocrats.”
BONUS: She Once Thought Trump Could Be ‘The Next Todd Akin’
McEnany may have successfully risen in the ranks of Trump sycophancy all the way to the White House, but she wasn’t always such a loyalist.
Before jumping fully on-board the Trump Train in 2016, McEnany was actually skeptical of the former reality-TV host. Shortly after the future president’s infamous campaign kickoff speech, in which he called Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals,” McEnany warned that Trump should tone down his rhetoric lest he become an embarrassment to the GOP.
“We can’t afford to have another Todd Akin on the campaign trail,” she told Lemon in July 2015, referring to the former Missouri congressman who derailed his 2014 Senate bid after claiming “legitimate rape” almost never causes pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”