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'I Will Never Lie To You': Trump's New Press Secretary Revives Briefing

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany holds her first press conference Friday in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House.
Jim Watson
AFP via Getty Images
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany holds her first press conference Friday in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House.

Updated at 3:11 p.m. ET

Kayleigh McEnany did something on Friday that her predecessor at the White House never once did: She briefed reporters from behind the lectern in the cramped confines of the James S. Brady briefing room.

McEnany, President Trump's fourth press secretary, took over the job less than a month ago from Stephanie Grisham, who had chosen to work behind the scenes, saying that Trump was his own best spokesman.

McEnany, who has a degree from Harvard Law School, rose to prominence with her fiery defenses of Trump on television news programs.

In the Friday news conference, McEnany said she expected to make the traditional press sessions a more regular occurrence in the briefing room and vowed to make truthfulness a priority in her role.

"I will never lie to you. You have my word on that," she told reporters.

Prior to taking the helm as the White House's lead spokeswoman, McEnany was a spokeswoman for Trump's reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee. Mark Meadows, Trump's new chief of staff, moved her to the White House in an overhaul of the communications shop.

In the wide-ranging presser, McEnany addressed the administration's coronavirus response and allegations of sexual assault against Trump and his rival for the 2020 White House, former Vice President Joe Biden.

She also took questions regarding the president's tweet on Friday that armed protesters who stormed the Michigan Capitol demanding to speak to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were "very good people" and that the governor "should give a little, and put out the fire."

McEnany said Trump encouraged protesters to act within the confines of the law and to practice social distancing, which many, according to video and photographs from the event, did not.

Trump's first press secretary, Sean Spicer, became the butt of late-night comedy shows for his blustery near-daily briefings. Under the next spokesperson, Sarah Sanders, the frequency of briefings tapered off.

Trump has been his own spokesman for much of the coronavirus pandemic, and for weeks, he briefed the press almost daily. In March, while talking up the performance of his team in addressing the crisis, Trump said his White House had "done a poor job on press relationships."

"The only thing we haven't done well is to get good press. We've done a fantastic job, but it hasn't been appreciated," he said.

Last week, Trump said he wanted to stop his daily briefings, but he has continued to take questions from reporters on a near-daily basis.

One of the first moves by Meadows, who took over as chief of staff in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, was to shake up press operations. He gave two of his longtime aides — Ben Williamson and Alyssa Farah — key leadership roles and brought in McEnany.

McEnany's debut in the briefing room was announced in a late-night tweet by Dan Scavino, Trump's social media director, who was also elevated by Meadows in the press shop overhaul.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany talks with reporters in the briefing room of the White House on April 30.
Evan Vucci / AP
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany talks with reporters in the briefing room of the White House on April 30.

The room, known for its iconic royal blue chairs, looked a bit different for McEnany than it did for her predecessors. The White House Correspondents' Association has been staggering assigned seats to improve social distancing and reduce the risk of spreading the virus, leaving many seats empty in the normally standing-room-only space.

McEnany had been seen in the press briefing room on Thursday and was asked whether she would resume the briefing tradition. "Never say never," she replied.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Roberta Rampton is NPR's White House editor. She joined the Washington Desk in October 2019 after spending more than six years as a White House correspondent for Reuters. Rampton traveled around America and to more than 20 countries covering President Trump, President Obama and their vice presidents, reporting on a broad range of political, economic and foreign policy topics. Earlier in her career, Rampton covered energy and agriculture policy.
Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.
Alana Wise joined WAMU in September 2018 as the 2018-2020 Audion Reporting Fellow for Guns & America. Selected as one of 10 recipients nationwide of the Audion Reporting Fellowship, Alana works in the WAMU newsroom as part of a national reporting project and is spending two years focusing on the impact of guns in the Washington region.