McEnany’s style rubs some the wrong way. Good.
Kayleigh McEnany, President Donald Trump’s new press secretary, has shown that she can give as good as she takes. Her foremost quality so far has been revealing, in a very public manner, the hypocrisy of the White House press corps.
However, some of those who are allegedly on the conservative side are not impressed.
For example, at her second appearance in the briefing room, a reporter asked if she’d like to “take back” comments she’d made before coming to work for Trump in early April about Trump not allowing COVID-19 to “enter” the country. She responded by asking if several media outlets, from Vox to The Washington Post to NPR, would like to “take back” their reports about the coronavirus not being as bad as the seasonal flu.
Writing in USA Today on May 7, Mark Weinberg, who had served as director of public affairs for President Ronald Reagan, ticked off a list of previous press secretaries from both parties and noted, “What made them great was that they refrained from gratuitous attacks on reporters, media outlets and the opposite political party. Instead they defended their bosses in thoughtful, if sometimes pointed, discussions of specific policies and the broader question of the proper role of government.”
He added, “Her performance so far dishonors her position, the memory of the man for whom the White House Press Briefing Room is named” — former Reagan spokesman Jim Brady — “and the very podium from which she speaks, and ultimately does not serve her boss well.”
Last week McEnany again fell out of favor with some on the right partly because she concluded her briefing on Friday with slides showing a series of questions that reporters should ask former Obama administration officials about the case of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. “Maybe … you guys will follow up with journalistic curiosity,” she said.
On a panel discussion on “Fox News Sunday,” anchor Chris Wallace had some choice words for McEnany, whom he criticized for the Flynn display as well as seeming to question the religious faith of some reporters questioning Trump’s push for reopening churches this past weekend. “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 harrumphed. “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.”
Jonah Goldberg, a columnist and a former longtime editor at National Review, who also was on Wallace’s panel, described McEnany’s behavior as “indefensible and grotesque.”
“What Donald Trump wants in a press secretary is a Twitter troll who goes on attack, 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,” Goldberg said. “It’s a sign of defining deviancy down, and it’s only going to make things worse.”
One might ask how much worse things could get in the relationship between the media and the White House, or how much worse could the division in the country get based on the slanted information put out by the mainstream media.
But the question for Wallace, Goldberg, Weinberg and other McEnany critics is: When will those in the media be held accountable for their own behavior — that is, for asking asinine questions that solicit trollable reactions instead of useful information, for hyping molehill-sized issues into click-bait mountains, for relentlessly pushing misguided theories about Trump that, once proven false, are not corrected or never acknowledged as having been wrong, or for failing to ask tough, necessary questions of the Obama team about why they unleashed the full power of the federal government’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies to undermine a rival political campaign?
Just as importantly, what have Republicans gained by playing by the Marquess of Queensbury’s rules with the media that obviously hates them and roots for their downfall? Or, in other words, when will we see some self-introspective “journalistic curiosity” from the liberal media about why reporters behave the way they do and about the journalistic norms that were so readily abandoned at the dawn of the Trump era?
Don’t hold your breath waiting for answers. Until we have them, though, McEnany should keep on keeping on.
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