On Friday, May 1, the Trump administration’s fourth press secretary in just over three years, Kayleigh McEnany, gave her inaugural press briefing. It was the first press briefing by a White House Press Secretary in over a year, with McEnany’s predecessor, Stephanie Grisham, having never given a press briefing during her nine months in office.
Prior to taking over as the White House Press Secretary, McEnany served directly for United States President Donald Trump as his National Press Secretary. Having vowed in her first press briefing that she would never lie to the press, McEnany’s top priority will be delivering the Trump administration’s talking points.
Prior to Grisham, President Trump’s press secretary was Sarah Sanders, who had the position for over a year following the exit of Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer. McEnany has a history of defending Trump in the media and has been a fixture in conservative spheres for years.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
Speaking in her first press briefing on Friday, McEnany assured reporters, “I will never lie to you.” As the official spokesperson for the White House, McEnany’s role is to serve as the liaison between the president and the press, at least when Trump isn’t delivering press briefings of his own.
Among the topics covered in her first press briefing was the nation’s COVID-19 response, China’s role in the spread of the pandemic and whether the virus was man-made.
McEnany also brought up General Michael Flynn, a former member of Trump’s administration who was found guilty of breaking the Logan Act and of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2018.
Despite Flynn pleading guilty to the crime, conservative media has claimed he was “set up” by the FBI after documents related to the case were released to the public.
Despite her vow to always tell the truth, after her first press briefing, headlines stated that McEnany had misled and lied to the press. She was accused of misrepresenting what was said in the FBI documents related to Flynn and distorting facts around the sexual assault allegations made against Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
An early political awakening
McEnany began her career as a conservative political pundit early. A native of Tampa, Florida, McEnany, who turned 32 in April, got involved in national politics in high school by volunteering for former President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign. After interning with the Bush campaign, she interned in Florida in Tom Gallagher’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2006.
She followed up those internships by studying International Politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Washington, DC. During her time there, she interned in the office of House Representative Adam Putnam, as well as in the Office of Media Affairs for the Bush White House.
Her career as a political pundit began with a blog, originally titled RealReaganConservative.com, but changed to PoliticalProspect.com (the site appears to have been left in maintenance mode since 2016). Across multiple posts, she denounced “Islamists” and criticized President Barack Obama. The blog became a steppingstone to larger media platforms.
From December 2012 to July 2016, she wrote nearly two dozen articles for The Blaze, a rightwing site that bills itself as “news and entertainment for people who love America.” Her articles touched on common conservative tropes with titles like “Guns Don’t Kill People, Deranged Men Do” and “21st Century Feminism: An Embarrassment to My Gender.”
During Obama’s second term, McEnany was a regular commentator on Fox News, working as a producer for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s opinion show, “Huckabee.” She was also hired as a regular contributor on CNN and became known as a “Trump mouth piece” for her voracious defense of him as a spokesperson for his 2016 campaign.
Seven months into Trump’s presidency, McEnany announced via Twitter that she had left CNN for a “new role.”
On August 6, 2017, she made a one-time appearance on the Trump-sanctioned news program “Real News Update,” which posts campaign videos on Trump’s Facebook page.
Just one day later, McEnany was announced as the newest spokesperson for the Republican Party.
Starting in 2019, Kayleigh served as the National Press Secretary for Trump’s reelection campaign. Her frequent defenses of Trump included a contentious interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo in which she claimed of Trump, “He doesn’t lie. Guess who lies? The press lies.”
Criticisms of Obama
Prior to hitching her wagon to Trump’s presidency, McEnany used her various platforms to regularly criticize Obama.
In March 2015, in response to a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she tweeted, “If only we could trade Obama for Netanyahu.”
In November 2014, McEnany tweeted, “Obama keeps mentioning mass deportation. Republicans are NOT calling for that, so it is disingenuous to keep mentioning it #immigration.”
As president, Trump has actively supported mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. His administration is currently seeking to cancel Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
McEnany has also been called racist for propagating the “birther” conspiracy theory.
The debunked conspiracy asserts that Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not legally eligible to be president. Trump, who built his political profile during Obama’s presidency by criticizing Obama and claiming he wasn’t born in the US, has been called the “Birther-in-Chief.”
In August 2012, McEnany tweeted, “How I Met Your Brother — Never mind, forgot he’s still in that hut in Kenya. #ObamaTVShows.”
McEnany is married to Sean Gilmartin, a Major League Baseball player who has played for the Atlanta Braves and the Baltimore Orioles. As of February 2020, he is with the Tampa Bay Rays, though the 2020 MLB season has been postponed and may yet be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
McEnany and Gilmartin have one child together, a girl named Blake.