During her very first presser, new White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany stood at the podium, looked a room full of masked reporters in their eyes and said, “I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.”
That’s what makes her so dangerous.
McEnany is the kind of terrifying professionalized Trumpist who has been largely absent from his deeply incompetent administration. While the president stumbles through lies and gaffes and shifting stories, McEnany does not. She does not pause, she does not reflect on the irony of the words she is saying. She doesn’t lie; she just offers misstatements and evasions and attacks on the press and whatever else that helps obscure the truth.
The 32-year-old McEnany is the worst kind of Trumpist, the kind that cloaks her despicability in corporate doublespeak and faux concern. Unlike the president or his fail sons, she doesn’t say the racist parts out loud.
McEnany famously graduated from Harvard Law School, which Trumpers love to hold up as proof that she is smart. I would offer as proof that she is smart what she said on CNN in June of 2015: “Donald Trump has shown himself to be a showman, I don’t think he is a serious candidate, I think it is a sideshow. It’s not within the mainstream of the candidates.” If only.
McEnany even has that odd waxy look of a Trumpy woman, all white teeth and smooth hair sprayed within an inch of its life. She looks vaguely like Ivanka or Lara Trump or Junior’s first wife Vanessa. She’s blond and smooth and fatless. She wears high pumps and smart business casual outfits while supporting Trump’s message of misogyny. But the thing that really makes her a “Trumpy woman” is that she’s always just the slightest bit outraged and offended by your question.
As a talking head cheering all things Trump back in February, she’d declared, “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. We will not see terrorism come here.” Asked about that as press secretary, she responded with hostility: “I guess I would turn the question back on the media, and ask similar questions. Does Vox want to take back that they proclaimed the coronavirus would not be a deadly pandemic?” She didn’t mention that Vox did take that back, and, of course, she didn’t answer the question.
McEnany is a wizard of whataboutism, a mistress of misinformation, and an oracle of outrage.
She appears just human enough to seem like she might say something normal before she proceeds to defend the indefensible. Ann Coulter tweeted, “Kayleigh McEnany: beautiful, Christian, conservative … designed by nature to enrage MSNBC viewers.” What’s enraging isn’t her beauty or her Christianity or even her conservatism. It’s that she’s extremely good at saying the ridiculous part out loud, without quite lying and as if she absolutely believes it.
On Monday, after a weekend of the most profound and heartbreaking protests of my lifetime, while the president hid in a bunker tweeting inflammatory statements, McEnany said that Donald Trump has a “long history of condemning white supremacy and racism.” He does not.
On Tuesday, McEnany started her press conference by reading the words of Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King! I mean, the press secretary for the most racist president in modern history cited MLK before going on to push the absurd untruth that the tear gas used on peaceful protesters to clear the way for Trump’s insane photo op in front of a church wasn’t tear gas at all but instead, gas that caused tears.
Sean Spicer was a hot mess who could barely pronounce his own name but he was incompetent in a way that produced a certain amount of levity. Sarah Huckabee was a mean girl who wore pearls and spoke in a joyless monotone. Stephanie Grisham was largely absent.
McEnany is an actual threat to democracy with her ability to walk right up to the line that is lying but skillfully not cross over it. She is dangerous because she can pass as respectable.
Kayleigh can pretend to be a high-minded conservative, a Mitt Romney, but deep down anyone who works for this administration is a Steve King whether they realize it or not.