|33rd White House Press Secretary|
April 7, 2020 – January 20, 2021
Brian R. Morgenstern
|Preceded by||Stephanie Grisham|
|Succeeded by||Jen Psaki|
|Born||April 18, 1988|
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
|Education||Georgetown University (BS)|
University of Miami
Harvard University (JD)
Kayleigh McEnany (/ /; born April 18, 1988) is an American conservative political commentator and author who served as the 33rd White House press secretary for the Trump administration from April 2020 to January 2021. She currently serves as an on-air contributor for Fox News.
She began her media career as a producer for Huckabee on Fox News and later worked as a commentator on CNN. Early on in the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries, she was a critic of Donald Trump, but over time became known as a staunch defender of Trump. In 2017, she was appointed national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee.
She worked for Trump's 2020 presidential campaign as National Press Secretary from 2019 to 2020 and again as Senior Advisor from October 2020 to January 2021. On April 7, 2020, she was appointed as White House Press Secretary in the Trump administration, a position she held until Joe Biden's inauguration as 46th president. After the Trump administration, McEnany has been employed by Fox News as an on-air commentator.
McEnany was born on April 18, 1988, in Tampa, Florida and was raised in Tampa. She is the daughter of commercial roofing company owner Michael and Leanne McEnany. McEnany attended the Academy of the Holy Names, a private Catholic preparatory school in Tampa. After graduating, she majored in international politics at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. and she studied abroad at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. While at Oxford, she was taught politics by future British Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds. After graduating from Georgetown, McEnany spent three years as a producer on the Mike Huckabee Show.
From there, McEnany enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law, before transferring to Harvard Law School after completing her first (1L) year at the University of Miami. At the Miami School of Law, McEnany was a recipient of the Bruce J. Winick Award for Excellence, a scholarship awarded to students in the top 1% of their class. She completed her second and third years of law school at Harvard, and graduated from Harvard in 2016.
As a college student, McEnany interned for several politicians, including Tom Gallagher, Adam Putnam and George W. Bush, and later worked in the White House Office of Communications, where she wrote media briefings.
While in law school, McEnany appeared on CNN as a paid commentator. She supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. However, in early 2015, before becoming a Trump supporter, McEnany was highly critical of him, declaring on CNN and Fox Business that "Donald Trump has shown himself to be a showman" and it was "unfortunate" and "inauthentic" to call him a Republican. McEnany called his comments about Mexican immigrants "racist". According to Michael Marcantonio, a fellow summer associate at a law firm, she began supporting Trump after accepting Marcantonio's advice, which he gave to her over cocktails. In an interview with the New York Times, Marcantonio recalled telling McEnany, "Donald Trump is going to be your nominee," and that if "a smart, young, blond Harvard graduate" wanted "to get on television and have a career as a political pundit, you would be wise to be an early backer."
On August 5, 2017, McEnany left her position at CNN. The following day, she hosted a 90-second webcast, Real News Update on Trump's personal Facebook page. She praised Trump throughout the segment, saying she had brought the "real news" to the American people.
Former employer Mike Huckabee has called her a "meticulous researcher" and "extraordinarily prepared." Her rapid occupational success was noted by Van Jones, CNN commentator and liberal activist who worked with her at CNN. "I'm not trying to defend the messaging, but what I hope people can acknowledge is there's very few people in either party who can accomplish what Kayleigh has accomplished in such a short time... People keep taking her lightly, and they keep regretting it."
Republican political strategist
McEnany has been closely associated with the Republican Party since she was in college. She was critical of the Obama presidency, and in 2012 posted several tweets questioning Barack Obama's birthplace, echoing the "birther" conspiracy theorist movement. In 2012, McEnany tweeted about Obama's half-brother Malik Obama, who lives in Kenya: "How I Met Your Brother – Never mind, forgot he's still in that hut in Kenya".
In 2017, she responded to claims it was hypocritical of Trump to visit his golf course while president by mistakenly claiming that Obama rushed off to a golf game after the 2002 beheading of Daniel Pearl. Obama was a state senator at the time of Pearl's murder. McEnany later apologized for the comment, noting that Obama went golfing after the 2014 murder of another journalist, James Foley, who was beheaded by ISIS in Syria. Obama, who was vacationing on Martha's Vineyard at the time, admitted that he should have "anticipated the optics" of golfing immediately after making a press statement on Foley's death. On August 7, 2017, the Republican National Committee (RNC) appointed McEnany as its national spokesperson. In 2017, as RNC spokeswoman, McEnany supported Trump amid a bipartisan backlash in response to his comments about a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he suggested that white supremacists and anti-racist counterprotesters shared blame for violence; in a tweet, McEnany wrote that the Republican Party supported Trump's "message of love and inclusiveness."
In the weeks before her appointment as White House press secretary, McEnany praised Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, "This president will always put America first, he will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism, and isn't that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of Barack Obama?" The disease had been present in the United States for at least a month prior to McEnany's claim that the virus would not "come here"; in December 2020 Politico named McEnany's prediction one of "the most audacious, confident and spectacularly incorrect prognostications about the year". In March 2020, McEnany said Democrats were trying "to politicize" the coronavirus and that Democrats were almost "rooting for this outcome."
In the weeks following, McEnany was criticized for her remarks. Author Grant Stern tweeted, "Kayleigh McEnany is coming to the White House with new 'alternative facts' about #coronavirus. The rest of the world calls them lies." McEnany responded that she was referring to Trump's travel ban.
White House press secretary (2020-2021)
After Mark Meadows replaced Mick Mulvaney as White House chief of staff in April 2020, Meadows's first personnel change was hiring McEnany as White House press secretary on April 7, 2020, which was officially announced the next day. Stephanie Grisham, who had served in the role and as White House communications director since June 2019, became First Lady Melania Trump's chief of staff and spokesperson.
Two months into her tenure, the Associated Press wrote of McEnany, she "has made clear from her first briefing that she's willing to defend her boss's view of himself as well as his most flagrant misstatements."
In April 2020, McEnany defended Trump's assertion that the World Health Organization had shown a "clear bias towards China" and said that the WHO put Americans at risk by "repeating inaccurate claims peddled by China during the coronavirus pandemic" and "opposing the United States' life-saving travel restrictions."
When Trump was criticized by experts for suggesting at a press conference that the coronavirus could be treated with disinfectant injections, McEnany said that his remarks were taken out of context. Trump later said the suggestion was sarcastic, although there was no indication in his statement that he was making a joke.
On May 1, 2020, as part of her first public press briefing and the first one by a White House press secretary in 417 days, McEnany was asked by an Associated Press reporter: "Will you pledge to never lie to us from that podium?" McEnany replied: "I will never lie to you. You have my word on that." On the subject of Trump's responses to the coronavirus pandemic, she claimed, "This president has always sided on the side of data". In response to allegations of Trump's sexual misconduct, McEnany said: "He has always told the truth." McEnany claimed that the Mueller Report as part of the larger investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election had resulted in a "complete and total exoneration of President Trump," despite the report reading "Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
Amid reports on May 8, 2020, that the White House was "shelving" the release of COVID-19 re-opening guidelines, McEnany said that the guidelines had not been approved by Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Following Associated Press reports that Redfield had previously cleared the release of the guidance, Redfield addressed the issue personally, saying that the documents were still in "draft form" and had been released for "interagency review", not for public dissemination. That same week, Obama, in a private phone call with members of his former administration, described the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus crisis as "an absolute chaotic disaster". McEnany responded the next day by providing a statement to CNN claiming that, to the contrary, the "response has been unprecedented and saved American lives."
In May 2020, McEnany defended Trump's accusation that Joe Scarborough had a person murdered, offering no evidence in support of the accusation. The same month, McEnany defended claims that Trump made about the dangers of vote by mail, repeating his inaccurate claims that vote by mail has a "high propensity for voter fraud." McEnany herself has voted by mail 11 times in 10 years.
In June 2020, she defended the decision by the Trump administration to forcibly remove peaceful protestors using smoke canisters, pepper balls, riot shields, batons, officers on horseback and rubber bullets so that Trump could stage a photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square in Washington. She likened Trump's action to that of Winston Churchill walking the streets to survey bomb damage during World War II. When General Jim Mattis, former secretary of defense in the Trump administration, condemned Trump's action, McEnany described Mattis' comments as "little more than a self-promotional stunt to appease the DC elite."
On September 9, 2020, news agencies released the audio recordings of interviews with Trump that former Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward had conducted in February and March 2020 for his book Rage, in which Trump acknowledged to Woodward that he was intentionally downplaying the severity of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which CNN had obtained ahead of the book’s September 15, 2020 release. In the wake of this development, McEnany asserted, "The president never downplayed the virus." In fact, Trump repeatedly and publicly downplayed the risk of the virus and the severity of the pandemic, and in a recorded March 19, 2020 interview with Woodward said, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic." In response to McEnany's comment, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote that she had sacrificed her credibility; while Joe Lockhart, who served as White House Press Secretary during the Clinton administration, wrote her answers confirmed her as a "state propagandist".
On October 5, 2020, McEnany tested positive for COVID-19. Even though she had interacted with individuals who had been diagnosed with coronavirus days prior, McEnany on several occasions spoke with the press while not wearing a mask before she ultimately tested positive for the coronavirus. Among McEnany's staff members to also test positive for COVID-19 was Chad Gilmartin, the cousin of McEnany's husband.
2020 presidential election and aftermath
While ballots were still being counted on election day, McEnany made an early declaration of victory for Trump. After Joe Biden won the election and President Donald Trump refused to concede, McEnany spread claims of fraud in the 2020 election. On November 20, 2020, McEnany claimed Trump was not given an "orderly transition of power". Previously in 2016, within two days of Trump's victory, his opponent Hillary Clinton conceded to Trump, while then-President Obama had recognized Trump as president-elect and hosted Trump at the White House. Trump himself thanked Obama and his wife "for their gracious aid throughout this transition". Trump fired the leader of his transition team (Chris Christie), threw out months of transition planning, and rejected help from the Obama administration. McEnany's comment was stated while Trump himself was refusing to recognize his opponent Joe Biden's victory as legitimate; Trump was also actively delaying the start of a transfer of power to president-elect Biden for two weeks.
Following the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, Randall Lane, writing for Forbes, shamed corporations against hiring McEnany or other people "who lied for Trump", stating that "Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie. We're going to scrutinize, double-check, investigate with the same skepticism we'd approach a Trump tweet. Want to ensure the world's biggest business media brand approaches you as a potential funnel of disinformation? Then hire away."
After the White House
McEnany married Sean Gilmartin, a pitcher in Major League Baseball, in November 2017. The couple have one daughter, Blake, born in November 2019. Due to a BRCA mutation that put her at high risk of developing breast cancer, McEnany underwent a preventive double mastectomy in 2018.
- McEnany, Kayleigh (January 9, 2018). The New American Revolution: The Making of a Populist Movement. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-5011-7968-6. OCLC 992563584.
- McEnany, Kayleigh (December 7, 2021). For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey through the White House and Beyond. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781637582350. OCLC 1256627860.
- As pronounced by her in "Kayleigh McEnany Book Signing & Interview" (2018).
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On cue, McEnany trampled the on-the-record remarks of her boss. 'The president never downplayed the virus, once again,' said McEnany, who at this very moment was taking her place alongside Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders with her willingness to sacrifice her credibility for a man who cares about nothing but himself.
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In her Friday press briefing, McEnany mischaracterized what followed the 2016 election and Trump's victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
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McEnany's statements came nearly two weeks after the 2020 election was called for president-elect Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
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