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Opinion ‘Big Lie’ proponent Kayleigh McEnany says she ‘never lied’ as press secretary

Then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a briefing at the White House in 2020. (Evan Vucci/AP)

“I will never lie to you,” Kayleigh McEnany said in May 2020 when she started as then-President Donald Trump’s press secretary. Now, McEnany is pleased to report that she fulfilled that pledge. In a speech over the weekend at an event of conservative group Turning Point USA, McEnany told the audience, “Then there was the question, ‘Will you ever lie to us?’ And I said without hesitation, ‘No.’ And I never did. As a woman of faith, as a mother of baby Blake, as a person who meticulously prepared at some of the world’s hardest institutions, I never lied, I sourced my information, but that will never prevent the press from calling you a liar.”

We won’t gainsay McEnany’s claim about her tireless preparation. She was famous for assembling briefing books with talking points on every imaginable question that could come her way. Flipping through those books in search of the appropriate tab became something of a parlor trick for McEnany at her briefings.

As for her claim never to have lied, the Erik Wemple Blog asked McEnany (via Fox News, where she’s now a paid network contributor) whether the falsehoods she churned out in the White House briefing room were knowing falsehoods, i.e., lies. As others have documented, there are plenty of such falsehoods on the public record — a logical hazard of flacking for a proven and relentless liar.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded to questions on Sept. 24 about remarks President Trump made the day before. (Video: The Washington Post)

There’s really no need, however, to lawyer our way through this matter. After the 2020 presidential election, McEnany turned in a series of appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program — a PR offensive to push the “big lie” on the American public. There were more than 20 such segments.

And boy, did McEnany have her details ready for “Hannity”! “We keep hearing the drumbeat of, where is the evidence? Right here, Sean: 234 pages of sworn affidavits,” said McEnany on the Nov. 10 edition. “These are real people, real allegations, signed with notaries, who are alleging the following, among other contentions, they are alleging — this is one county, Wayne County, Michigan. They are saying that there was a batch of ballots where 60 percent had the same signature. They are saying that 35 ballots had no voter record but they were counted anyway.”

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Anecdotage was a specialty of McEnany’s — like this spiel on the Nov. 18 “Hannity”: “And in particular, in a place like Pennsylvania, I was contacted today. I found out about a few cases, and there are declarations that support this, that there were multiple individuals in a state like Pennsylvania — and this is going to back up your point — who went to the polls and said, ‘I’m here to vote in person’ and they were told, ‘Oh, wait, you already voted by mail.’ ”

In fact, three days later, a federal judge in Pennsylvania called the Trump campaign’s case a “Frankenstein’s Monster” and wrote this about the entire affair: “One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption.… Instead, this court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations … unsupported by evidence.”

Other McEnany objections withered under just a bit of scrutiny.

McEnany’s efforts on behalf of the “big lie,” concerted though they were, didn’t result in the reversal of the 2020 presidential election results. That’s not to say, though, that she didn’t score some victories: Her “Hannity” appearances couldn’t have hurt her prospects as a Fox News contributor-in-waiting; her arguments surely played some role in convincing Republican lawmakers to support a Texas attorney general’s lawsuit to nullify the election results in four key states; and 147 Republicans voted on Jan. 6 to decertify the electoral college vote in Arizona and/or Pennsylvania.

In her Turning Point appearance, McEnany said that she came up with a motto for her press operation at the White House: “Offense only.” That explains a lot, including McEnany’s insistence on bookending her already-short press briefings with propaganda speeches and slams on the media. It also accounts for why a woman who promoted the “big lie” would make a point of declaring she never lied.

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