Kayleigh McEnany

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Kayleigh McEnany
Kayleigh McEnany (50042296968) (cropped).jpg
McEnany in 2020
31st White House Press Secretary
Assumed office
April 7, 2020
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyHogan Gidley
Preceded byStephanie Grisham
Personal details
Born (1988-04-18) April 18, 1988 (age 32)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Sean Gilmartin (m. 2017)
EducationGeorgetown University (BS)
University of Miami
Harvard University (JD)

Kayleigh McEnany (born April 18, 1988)[1][2] is an American political commentator and author, serving as the 31st and current White House Press Secretary since April 2020.

A graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard University, she began her media career as a producer for Huckabee on Fox News and later worked as a commentator on CNN. In 2017, she was appointed national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee and on April 7, 2020, was appointed as White House Press Secretary in the Trump administration.

At the start of the 2016 presidential election, she was critical of then-candidate Trump, calling his remarks about Mexican immigrants "racist" and suggesting it was "inauthentic" to call him a Republican. However, during the campaign, she became a staunch pro-Trump commentator. At her first appearance as Trump's press secretary, she was questioned by reporters and promised she would never lie.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, McEnany is the daughter of commercial roofing company owner Michael McEnany and Leanne McEnany.[4] McEnany was educated at the Academy of the Holy Names,[5] a Catholic preparatory school in Tampa. After leaving school, she majored in international politics at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C.[6] and she studied abroad at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.[7][8] While at Oxford, she was taught politics by future British Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds.[9][7] After graduating from Georgetown, McEnany spent three years as a producer on the Mike Huckabee Show.[6]

From there, McEnany enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law, before transferring to Harvard Law School.[2] Huckabee said that "one of the reasons [McEnany] went on to law school was because she didn't see she was going to have an on-air opportunity at Fox anytime soon."[2] 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.[6] She graduated from Harvard in 2016.[2]


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.[6]

Media roles[edit]

While in law school, McEnany appeared on CNN as a paid commentator and although not initially a supporter of Donald Trump, she supported him in the 2016 presidential election.[10][11][12] 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."[13] She began supporting Trump after receiving advice over cocktails from Michael Marcantonio, a fellow summer associate at a law firm and a Democrat. He told her “Donald Trump is going to be your nominee,” and 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”. According to The Guardian, she took this advice.[14]

On August 5, 2017, McEnany left her position at CNN.[15] The following day, she hosted a 90-second webcast, Real News Update[16] on Trump's personal Facebook page. She praised the president throughout the segment, saying she had brought the "real news" to the American people.[17]

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."[2]

Republican political strategist[edit]

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 Obama's birthplace, echoing the "birther" conspiracy theorist movement.[18] 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".[19]

Kayleigh McEnany speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

In 2017, she responded to claims it was hypocritical of Trump to visit his golf course while president by mistakenly claiming that President 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.[20][21]

On August 7, 2017, the Republican National Committee (RNC) appointed McEnany as its national spokesperson.[22][23] In 2017, as RNC spokeswoman, McEnany supported Trump amid a bipartisan backlash in response to the president's comments about a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he suggested that white supremacists and counterprotesters shared blame for violence; in a Tweet, McEnany wrote that the Republican Party supported the president's "message of love and inclusiveness."[24]

Despite Trump's well-documented history of false and misleading statements, in August 2019, McEnany told CNN's Chris Cuomo: "I don't believe the president has lied."[25] Journalist Elizabeth Williamson opined "her defence of her boss – and her castigations of the press – appear to be unperturbed by (Trump's) shifting narratives, (his) breaks from logic and (his) flights of fantasy."[2]

In the weeks prior to 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?"[26][27] In a radio interview on the "Pat Miller Show" on March 11, McEnany said Democrats were trying "to politicize" the coronavirus and that Democrats were almost "rooting for this outcome."[18]

In the weeks following, McEnany was criticized for her remarks. In a USA Today article, author Grant Stern said "Kayleigh McEnany is coming to the White House with new "alternative facts" about #coronavirus. The rest of the world calls them lies." McEnany responded the criticisms were "ridiculous spin".[18]

White House Press Secretary[edit]

McEnany at a press conference in May 2020

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.[28] Stephanie Grisham, who had served in the role and as White House communications director since June 2019, became Melania Trump's chief of staff and spokesperson.[29]

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.[30] In exchange, she frequently cites her proximity to the president – the coin of the realm in Washington – as evidence that she can speak credibly to his thinking and intent."[30]

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."[31]

When Trump was criticized by experts for suggesting at a press conference that the coronavirus could be treated with disinfectant injections, McEnany said that the president's remarks were simply taken out of context. Trump later said he was asking a sarcastic question,[32][33] although there was no indication in his statement that he was making a joke.[33]

On May 1, 2020, as part of her first public press briefing, McEnany was asked by an Associated Press reporter: "Will you pledge to never lie to us from that podium?" Without hesitation, McEnany replied: "I will never lie to you. You have my word on that." McEnany is claimed to have then made a number of false claims in the same briefing.[34][35] On the subject of Trump's responses to the coronavirus pandemic, she stated: "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."[35]

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.[36][37] 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."[38]

In May 2020, McEnany defended Trump's false accusation that Joe Scarborough had a person murdered, despite offering no evidence in support of the accusation.[39] The same month, McEnany defended claims that Trump made about the dangers of vote by mail, repeating the president's inaccurate claims that vote by mail has a "high propensity for voter fraud"; McEnany herself has voted by mail 11 times in 10 years.[40]

In June 2020, she defended the decision by the Trump administration to forcibly remove peaceful protestors using smoke canisters, pepper balls, riot shields, batons and officers on horseback and rubber bullets[41] 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.[42] When General Jim Mattis, former Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, condemned Trump's action, McEnany described Mattis's comments as "little more than a self-promotional stunt to appease the DC elite."[43]

Personal life[edit]

McEnany married Sean Gilmartin, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, in November 2017.[44][45] The couple has one daughter, Blake, born in November 2019.[46][47] Due to a BRCA mutation that put her at high risk of developing breast cancer, McEnany underwent a preventative double mastectomy in 2018.[48]


  • The New American Revolution: The Making of a Populist Movement (2018)[49]


  1. ^ McEnany, Kayleigh [@kayleighmcenany] (April 18, 2018). "Thank you to my incredible @GOP colleagues!!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Williamson, Elizabeth (April 27, 2020). "In Kayleigh McEnany, Trump Taps a Press Fighter for the Coronavirus Era". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Kayleigh McEnany promises not to lie as White House press secretary". BBC. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  4. ^ March, William (October 31, 2019). "Kayleigh McEnany highlights Hillsborough GOP Lincoln Day dinner". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  5. ^ Purks, Scott (September 14, 2005). "Three cheers for tradition". The St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d "From Classroom to Newsroom: Rising 2L Kayleigh McEnany Appears on TV as Guest Political Commentator". Miami School of Law. July 2, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Zeffman, Henry (May 2, 2020). "Kayleigh McEnany, the Oxford alumna who is Trump's new media warrior". The Times.
  8. ^ "Kayleigh McEnany". Above the Law. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  9. ^ Stonor, Joe (May 12, 2020). "Labour frontbencher taught Trump's Press Secretary politics at Oxford". Cherwell. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  10. ^ Kaczynski, Andrerw. "Kayleigh McEnany called Trump comment 'racist,' 'hateful' and 'not the American way' in 2015". CNN. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  11. ^ Kirell, Andrew (February 22, 2016). "Meet the Trumpkins: The Donald's Army of Media-Hungry Cable News Boosters". The Daily Beast. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  12. ^ Mazza, Ed (September 28, 2016). "CNN Trump Surrogate Kayleigh McEnany Compares Miss Universe To Terror Suspect". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  13. ^ Andrew Kaczynski; Em Steck. "Kayleigh McEnany called Trump comment 'racist,' 'hateful' and 'not the American way' in 2015". CNN. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  14. ^ Smith, David (May 10, 2020). "Kayleigh McEnany – the 'acceptable' face of Trumpism who infuriates liberals". The Guardian. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  15. ^ Tornoe, Ron (August 5, 2017). "Conservative pundit Kayleigh McEnany out at CNN". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  16. ^ Sheth, Sonam (August 7, 2017). "One of Trump's most vocal supporters left CNN to make a pro-Trump news video that's been compared to state TV". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  17. ^ Tornoe, Rob (August 6, 2017). "Out at CNN, Kayleigh McEnany suddenly appears on Trump's Facebook page". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  18. ^ a b c Wu, Nicholas (April 8, 2020). "New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany takes heat for past comments on Obama, coronavirus". USA Today. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  19. ^ Williamson, Elizabeth (April 27, 2020). "In Kayleigh McEnany, Trump Taps a Press Fighter for the Coronavirus Era". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2020. Eight years ago, a 24-year-old Ms. McEnany leapt at the Twitter hashtag #ObamaTVShows to offer “How I Met Your Brother – Never mind, forgot he’s still in that hut in Kenya.”
  20. ^ Nashrulla, Tasneem (March 28, 2017). "This Trump Surrogate Accused Obama Of Golfing After Daniel Pearl's Murder – 6 Years Before He Was Elected President". BuzzFeed News.
  21. ^ Japaridze, Nunu. "Obama: Golfing after Foley statement was a bad idea". CNN. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  22. ^ Scarry, Eddie (August 7, 2017). "Kayleigh McEnany joins Republican National Committee as spokesperson". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  23. ^ "Kayleigh McEnany Named RNC Spokesperson". Republican National Committee. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  24. ^ Greenwood, Max. "RNC spokeswoman: GOP stands behind Trump's message 'of love and inclusiveness'". The Hill. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  25. ^ Smith, David; Holden, Emily (April 8, 2020). "'We won't see coronavirus here'… and other gems from Trump's new press secretary". The Guardian.
  26. ^ Panetta, Grace (April 7, 2020). "New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed in February that 'we will not see diseases like the coronavirus' come to America". Business Insider.
  27. ^ Smith, David (April 7, 2020). "Stephanie Grisham out as Trump press secretary after never briefing press". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  28. ^ Singman, Brooke (April 8, 2020). "Trump names campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany as new White House press secretary". Fox News. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  29. ^ Phillips, Morgan (April 7, 2020). "Who is Kayleigh McEnany? What to know about incoming White House press secretary". Fox News. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  30. ^ a b "McEnany's mission: Stand by, defend, punch back for Trump". AP NEWS. June 8, 2020. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  31. ^ Hudson, John; Dawsey, Josh; Mekhennet, Souad (April 26, 2020). "Trump expands battle with WHO". Stuff.
  32. ^ Reston, Maeve (April 26, 2020). "An aggrieved Trump blames the press for furor over disinfectant comments as Birx defends him". CNN. Archived from the original on May 7, 2020.
  33. ^ a b Farley, Robert; Kiely, Eugene (April 24, 2020). "The White House Spins Trump's Disinfectant Remarks". FactCheck.org. Archived from the original on May 15, 2020. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  34. ^ Dale, Daniel; Cohen, Marshall; Subramaniam, Tara (May 2, 2020). "Fact check: New White House press secretary makes false claims in first briefing". CNN.
  35. ^ a b Smith, David (May 1, 2020). "Trump 'cannot tell a lie' – but can Kayleigh McEnany, his new press secretary?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on May 16, 2020. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  36. ^ Axelrod, Tal. "CDC director says guidance shelved by White House was 'in draft form'". The Hill. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  37. ^ Dearen, Jason (May 8, 2020). "AP Exclusive: Docs show top WH officials buried CDC report". Associated Press.
  38. ^ Obama says White House response to coronavirus has been 'absolute chaotic disaster', CNN, May 9, 2020.
  39. ^ Baker, Peter; Astor, Maggie (May 26, 2020). "Trump Pushes a Conspiracy Theory That Falsely Accuses a TV Host of Murder". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  40. ^ Steve Contorno (May 27, 2020). "Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has voted by mail 11 times in 10 years". Tampa Bay Times.
  41. ^ Carol D. Leonnig, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey & Rebecca Tan, Barr personally ordered removal of protesters near White House, leading to use of force against largely peaceful crowd, Washington Post (June 3, 2020).
  42. ^ "White House press secretary compares Trump's church visit to Churchill surveying WWII damage". CBS News. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  43. ^ "Mattis blasts Trump for divisiveness and 'making a mockery of our Constitution'". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  44. ^ "Rays' Sean Gilmartin: Gets camp invite with Rays". CBS Sports. Retrieved April 9, 2020.
  45. ^ Ripple, Zachary (November 20, 2017). "Former Mets pitcher Sean Gilmartin marries RNC spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  46. ^ Warnock, Caroline (April 7, 2020). "Sean Gilmartin, Kayleigh McEnany's Husband: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com.
  47. ^ Topkin, Marc (March 3, 2020). "Rays power couple: One pitches strikes, the other pitches Donald Trump". Tampa Bay Times.
  48. ^ McEnany, Kayleigh (April 28, 2019). "It's one year since my preventative double mastectomy at age 30 -- Here's how I am doing". Fox News.
  49. ^ McEnany, Kayleigh (January 8, 2018). "Michael Wolff wasn't with Trump on election night. Those who were prove his book wrong". Fox News. Retrieved January 9, 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Stephanie Grisham
White House Press Secretary