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Opinion Kayleigh McEnany’s cowardly exit

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a news briefing at the White House on Jan. 7 in Washington. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Seventeenth in an occasional series on White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, to prove the impossibility of speaking for President Trump.

The last time White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany appeared before the assembled press in the briefing room, she was well organized, as usual. It was Jan. 7, the day after the Capitol riot. Speaking for the “entire White House,” she plowed through a prepared statement deploring the actions of the rioters. Then she closed her briefing book and bolted. In all, it took one minute and 50 seconds.

Even though the briefing was sparsely attended on account of coronavirus restrictions, the correspondents let out a roar as McEnany left the room. All of them had a question for her, and they yelled those questions at the same time. No answers came back. Over nine months as press secretary, McEnany showed great resourcefulness in minimizing and deflecting Trump’s various outrages — a mission facilitated by her well-organized notebooks. Yet the Jan. 6 events presented her with a fresh outrage for which even she couldn’t fashion a talking point or slap together a binder tab.

The only one who could muzzle McEnany, it turns out, was Trump himself.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Jan. 7 said the violent riots that took place a day earlier were "antithetical to the American way." (Video: The Washington Post)

The no-answers briefing-room appearance provided a fitting bookend for the Trump White House. When Sean Spicer, Trump’s first press secretary, held his opening session with the press the day after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, he scolded the media for its reporting on the inaugural crowd. Then he bolted — without taking questions.

In recent days, McEnany’s office has continued sending out those trollish schedules that tout Trump’s agenda: “President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings,” reads the evolving boilerplate. If that language sounds lazy, consider that McEnany has cleared out of the White House and is reportedly working from Tampa during the Trump administration’s final days. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times broke that story:

Instead of perhaps answering questions and standing in front of the White House press corps, McEnany chose to snipe on Twitter:

For the record: McEnany had an abysmal record of responding to the inquiries of the Erik Wemple Blog.

Contrast McEnany’s finale with that of Josh Earnest, who held the press secretary job at the end of the Obama administration. In his final appearance, Earnest reflected on his work at the White House, credited everyone who’d worked around him, listened as President Barack Obama offered a tribute — and took a whole bunch of questions from reporters. The whole thing lasted an hour. It was a graceful ending.

No such parting scenario was conceivable for McEnany. Her primary contributions consisted of amplifying Trump’s lies and divisive rhetoric; repeating nonsensical talking points; reading specious closing statements at briefings; and, whenever cornered, attacking the media in absurd assertions of whataboutism.

And that’s not all: Following Trump’s defeat in the November election, McEnany signed up for frequent appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, the better to target her baseless allegations of election fraud to the proper audience. There were more than 20 such segments, compared with three briefings (four if you count her Jan. 7 statement-and-exit appearance).

The juxtapositions say it all: auditioning for a Fox News contributorship while stiffing the press corps; basking in the soft questions of “Hannity” instead of the real questions of the White House press corps; ducking out of town instead of finishing the job. Among several inquiries, we asked McEnany about her plans for the future. We received no response, but surely there’s an organization that needs someone with a high tolerance for lies and great organizational skills. Maybe the Patriot Party?

Read more:

Erik Wemple: Kayleigh McEnany Watch: Trump will ‘make many calls and have many meetings’

Jeff Flake: What the Biden era will feel like, six months in

David Von Drehle: There is no right or wrong way to inaugurate a president. As long as we move forward.

Eugene Robinson: Trump leaves a scorched landscape. But Biden brings hope at last.

George Conway: What I really believe

Dana Milbank: Biden will offer ‘unity’ and healing. But first we need the truth.