Response from McEnany: “I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.”
Good work by Colvin for asking, even though she mistook a lectern for a podium. McEnany is President Trump’s fourth press secretary, entering the White House as part of the team of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She’s a pugnacious 32-year-old Harvard Law graduate who took over for Stephanie Grisham, a quiet press secretary who failed to hold a single press briefing during her nine-month tenure. The last time a press secretary had held a full and formal briefing at the White House was March 11, 2019, when Sarah Sanders held the position.
The polite question from Colvin was a way of marking reporters’ territory in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. Both Sanders and Sean Spicer, Trump’s first press secretary, so commonly dispersed bogus information and, indeed, lies, that correspondents lost any sense of terra firma when it came to official proclamations from the Trump White House. A nadir came in April 2019, when special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report revealed that Sanders told investigators that when she had said in a briefing that she had heard from “countless” FBI officials who’d lost confidence in FBI Director James B. Comey, her comment was a “slip of the tongue.” The report found that a separate comment by Sanders wasn’t “founded on anything.”
Lies, in other words.
McEnany also told Colvin that the press briefings would continue, a prospect that will challenge McEnany’s fortitude. That’s because the job of White House press secretary is un-doable: The grinding imperatives of serving both the public and a president who is a habitual liar and a sponge for sycophancy are impossible.
Example: Spicer didn’t get up on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, with plans to deceive the country about inauguration crowd sizes. As he wrote in his book, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President,” Spicer said he awoke that day and got his kids up. Then the White House called. “Sean, have you seen the news?" Trump asked him. The most powerful person on Earth was miffed by a “panel discussion” comparing his inaugural crowd size unfavorably to President Barack Obama’s first inaugural. That frenzied call set in motion a frantic day of work that culminated in Spicer’s signature briefing-room moment, a shameful one from which he never really recovered.
Sanders, likewise, got herself in trouble when she was defending Trump’s whimsical abuse of power.
So there are two models preceding McEnany: Speak up and damage your reputation, a la Spicer and Sanders; or shut your mouth, a la Grisham. In concluding her briefing on Friday, McEnany showed that she knows the audience that really matters: “Everyone should watch the Fox News town hall with the president from 7 to 9 p.m. It’ll be can’t-miss television, much like the highly rated President Trump coronavirus task force briefings have been.”
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