|White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany at the White House on Thursday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)|
In America when something goes wrong at the circus, the ringmaster yells “send in the clowns.” The call is to distract the audience from something serious by providing a riot of silliness.
The phrase send in the clowns is also popular in American political jargon. When something goes wrong, such as everyday in the White House, the President’s managers send in a clown. In that case it is the administration’s press secretary: The very rubia royale Kayleigh McEnany, Obfuscator-in-Chief.
Is Ms. McEnany a clown? The mainstream media in this country adds harsh adjectives like incompetent before the word clown.
Here’s an example of what one media critic, Tom Jones, senior media writer for The daily Poynter Report says about the president’s mouthpiece. [October 2, 2020 click here for all the links Jones provides].
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had another bad day at the office
Excerpt by Tom Jones: For months, when Sarah Sanders and Stephanie Grisham were the White House press secretaries, many of us complained about how there were never any official White House press conferences.
Now the complaint?
There are too many.
Actually, it’s not the quantity of the White House press briefings that are the problem. It’s the quality of them. They’ve devolved into combative exchanges, mostly because White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany would rather take juvenile and baseless potshots and criticize the media instead of answering their legitimate questions.
Last Thursday was another example. There are still questions surrounding President Donald Trump’s comments about white supremacists during Tuesday’s debate, centering on the line he said about the hate group Proud Boys when he told them to “stand back and stand by.”
Since then, the president, those in his campaign and other Republicans have been asked about those comments, and have asked if the president has gone far enough in condemning white supremacy. During Thursday’s White House press conference, McEnany clashed with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins over whether Trump actually denounced the Proud Boys and McEnany ignored Collins’ point that Trump said the Proud Boys should “stand by.”
By the way, that’s a phrase now being trumpeted by the Proud Boys themselves. Meanwhile, it was Fox News’ John Roberts who most pressed the press secretary, asking McEnany, “I would like to ask you for a definitive and declarative statement without ambiguity or deflection. As the person who speaks for the president, does the president denounce white supremacy and groups that espouse it in all their forms?”
McEnany responded by saying, “This has been answered. Yesterday, by the president himself. The day before by the president himself on the debate stage. The president was asked this. He said, ‘sure,’ three times. Yesterday, he was asked point blank, ‘Do you denounce white supremacy?’ and he said, ‘I have always denounced any form of that.’” (As Fox Business’ Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, best known simply as Kennedy, noted, “sure” is not exactly a strong rebuke.)
Anyway, Roberts continued during Thursday’s White House and then showed his frustration after the press conference during an on-air report with Fox News’ Melissa Francis. “The press secretary would not, in a definitive and unambiguous and nondeflecting way, say that the president condemns white supremacism in all its forms and any group that espouses it,” Roberts said.
Then he turned his attention to those criticizing him on Twitter. “I don’t care,” he said. “Because it’s a question that needs to be asked and clearly the president’s Republican colleagues a mile away from here are looking for an answer for it, too. So stop deflecting. Stop blaming the media. I’m tired of it!”
McEnany being pushed on Trump’s white supremacy comments were not the only testy exchanges in Thursday’s White House press conference. McEnany also was asked about Trump’s claims during the debate that “they found ballots in a river.” Fox News Radio’s Jon Decker asked McEnany the most basic questions of all: Who are “they” and what river? After the two went back and forth, McEnany said she didn’t understand the “lack of journalistic curiosity.” To which Decker perfectly responded, “I’m asking you where the river is and you can’t give me an answer.”
Finally, McEnany also had another embarrassing misstep when she claimed that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was a “Rhodes Scholar.” There’s no question that Barrett is well-schooled and her law degree from Notre Dame proves that. But she is not a Rhodes Scholar. “That’s what I have written here,” McEnany said as she flipped through her large binder of notes. Then she discovered, just as she was told by a reporter, that Barrett actually attended Rhodes College. That, of course, doesn’t make you a Rhodes Scholar. McEnany said, “My bad.”
The take on McEnany
I’ve written this before and will repeat it now: McEnany is overmatched in her job as press secretary. She often fails to answer the most basic questions from the media and, after ducking and dancing and spinning and pivoting, she eventually turns the press conferences into a series of insults and finger-wagging. It frequently ends with her criticizing someone and then walking off abruptly.
Thursday was another example of a press conference that went off the rails. McEnany couldn’t answer direct questions about statements made by the president.
If the White House press secretary can’t do the most basic of tasks by communicating to the press (and, in effect, the country) what the president said, meant and does, then what’s the point?
While McEnany ultimately is doing the job that Trump wants her to do, what she might not realize is that she is, in many ways, failing the president and, in more ways, failing the American people.
When she insults the press, she is insulting the people that the press represents.
That’s me and you and every other American. McEnany seems more intent on lobbing accusations and criticism than doing her job. Maybe that’s because she isn’t capable of doing it well.
Speaking of Trump and white supremacy, NBC News’ Chuck Todd said this Thursday: “So far the Republicans’ response to the president’s comments has been an awkward dance of rebuke, embrace and silence.” For the record, during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday night, Trump said, “I’ve said it many times. Let me be clear again. I condemn the KKK, I condemn all white supremacists, I condemn the Proud Boys.” Trump then said that Joe Biden should condemn antifa. During that same interview, Trump criticized Hannity’s colleague John Roberts, saying he “screamed” at and “abused” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and added that “Fox is a much different place than it used to be.”
Thank you, Tom Jones for recapping just one day in paradise.