CNN’s Chris Cuomo had a question for President Trump’s campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday: Has the president ever lied to the American public?
“He doesn’t lie,” said McEnany, at the start of a heated 3½-minute exchange on “Cuomo Prime Time.” “The press lies.”
“You don’t think this president has lied to the American people?” the CNN host replied.
“No, I don’t think this president has lied,” she told Cuomo, before repeatedly backing the honesty of Trump, who has given more than 12,000 false or misleading statements during his presidency, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. (The Fact Checker generally avoids describing Trump’s falsehoods as “lies” since that suggests intent.)
Later, Cuomo posed the question once more, suggesting it was a chance for McEnany to clarify her position. McEnany said she had nothing further to explain: “No, I don’t believe the president has lied.”
After McEnany repeated her stance for the eighth time, Cuomo reached for his earpiece and pretended to make sure it was working. “Wow!” said the host.
The contentious back-and-forth, which would soon go viral, comes during a week in which the president has pushed a slew of false, misleading or inaccurate statements on China, Iran and Russia following a Group of Seven industrial nations summit. The president also tweeted what he claimed was the most common question he was asked by other world leaders at the meeting: “Mr. President, why does the American media hate your Country so much? Why are they rooting for it to fail?'”
Cuomo, whom the president described as a “total out-of-control animal” after the CNN host was shown in a video threatening a man who had called him “Fredo,” invited McEnany to discuss Trump blasting Puerto Rico as “one of the most corrupt places on Earth” as the U.S. territory prepared for Hurricane Dorian.
A former CNN contributor who served for nearly a year and a half as the Republican National Committee’s spokesperson, McEnany was brought on in February as press secretary for the president’s 2020 campaign after Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner suggested her hiring, The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey reported.
Cuomo first asked her why Trump continued to falsely claim that Congress had allocated $92 billion for Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017. As The Post’s John Wagner reported, Congress had allocated nearly $43 billion in relief aid, with about $14 billion making it to Puerto Rico. The $92 billion figure repeated by the president represents a 20-year estimate of potential storm-related liabilities.
“Why not tell the truth?” he asked McEnany, who responded by defending the two-decade estimate as accurate.
The discussion pivoted toward Trump’s recent disdain toward Fox News, which the president tweeted on Wednesday “isn’t working for us anymore!” McEnany denied that Trump’s intent was to suggest Fox should be working for him personally, arguing instead that the network was “not working for his movement.”
After McEnany’s repeated insistence that Trump has never lied, Cuomo cut the segment.
“Interview’s over, Kayleigh,” Cuomo told her. “If you can’t admit that this president has lied to the American people, you will not have credibility with the audience.”
“The fake news media lies every day and that’s why you’ve lost credibility,” she replied.
Cuomo then reminded the Trump aide that her boss believes the media is “the enemy of the people” and mentioned the president’s tweet about world leaders supposedly asking him why the media hates the U.S.
“He is to blame for sowing the seeds of division,” Cuomo told her.
McEnany told Cuomo to “take a look in the mirror” before calling her or Trump a liar.
“I don’t lie to my audience every damn chance I get,” he said before thanking her.
While Glenn Kessler, the editor and chief writer of the Fact Checker, has documented 12,019 false or misleading claims by the president in 928 days, he has only once characterized a Trump statement as a lie, The Post’s Paul Farhi reported. “You can’t get into someone’s head,” Kessler said. “Trump especially is very situational, so he may actually believe what he is saying, despite all evidence to the contrary.”
The one exception came last year in describing the president’s persistent denials about hush-money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election, which have been proved false by recordings and other evidence.
Some critics suggested Cuomo’s contentious segment, which had been viewed more than 800,000 times on social media by Thursday morning, exemplified the broken relationship between the news media and the Trump administration.
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