She said President Trump was preventing the virus from reaching the United States, that Democrats were rooting for the virus and the resulting economic hardship, and that former vice president Joe Biden was using the virus as an excuse to cancel campaign events — shortly before Trump canceled his own.
The most-circulated clip is of McEnany appearing on Fox Business Network in late February saying, “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here,” and adding, “Isn’t it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”
When the clip surfaced in recent days, as McEnany was thought to be a leading contender for the press secretary job, she emphasized that she was talking about Trump’s decision to impose restrictions on travel from China on Jan. 31. And the question posed by then-Fox Business host Trish Regan did indeed mention the restrictions. But the number of confirmed cases in the United States now exceeds any other country’s (though data from China is unreliable).
At other times, McEnany joined in an aggressive attempt to portray the coronavirus as part of a political attempt to take Trump down — a claim that was popular at the time but has become less popular among Trump allies as the severity of the outbreak has become clear.
“What is bad for America is good for Democrats,” she said Feb. 28 on Fox News. “It’s incredible that they think this way. They root against the stock market. They root for this [coronavirus] to take hold. They have a demented dream of taking down President Trump. It doesn’t matter how many Americans they destroy in order to get there.”
She said on March 11, when Biden canceled campaign events: “Joe Biden’s looking for an excuse to get off the campaign trail. And let me just add: The media’s best hope is for Donald Trump to suspend his rallies.”
McEnany continued: “We’re not going to cave to the media and Joe Biden. We’re not going to follow his lead as he tries to hide from the American people.”
Later that day, though, the Trump campaign did follow Biden’s lead and canceled a series of rallies. Further events were canceled in the following days.
On Feb. 26, McEnany echoed Trump’s talking point that the coronavirus situation was “under control.”
She was asked whether the virus was a threat to Trump’s reelection, and she responded: “Not in the slightest. The president has this under control, and America will see that, just like with every single international incident. He knows what he’s doing.”
By March 27, she accused Biden of calling Trump’s China travel restrictions “xenophobic,” even though Biden’s comment did not reference the travel restrictions.