One piece of the tactics White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany uses to foil establishment media attacks on the Trump administration came to light this week as the media marveled at her level of preparedness for the onslaughts that are hallmarks of White House briefings.
The focus on McEnany’s preparation began Thursday when Reuters photographer Jonathan Ernst took a picture of McEnany’s hand flipping through a tabbed binder during that day’s briefing.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany flips through the topic headings in her binder during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst #Reuters pic.twitter.com/8QFTgBKa06
— Jonathan Ernst (@j_ernst_DC) July 17, 2020
“White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany flips through the topic headings in her binder during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 16, 2020,” he tweeted.
Of course, the article came with Cillizza’s special brand of spin, so the entry for Russia was analyzed this way: “Not sure if you’ve heard but the President believes Russian interference in the 2016 election designed to help him and hurt Hillary Clinton is a ‘hoax’ — despite the fact that the intelligence community, special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee have all concluded it was very real.”
Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple noted, in between jabs at Trump, that McEnany has “first-rate organizational skills.”
“Don’t underestimate their importance,” he wrote. “At any given briefing, McEnany turns frequently to her impeccably tabulated topic binder.
“It’s not difficult, after all, to anticipate what issues will be of interest to White House reporters. Every day McEnany and her colleagues in the White House communications shop receive emails from correspondents asking about this matter or that matter. The assembled files enable McEnany to pepper her responses with specifics — quotes, statistics, anecdotes, whatever advances her cause.”
Wemple quoted Tom DeFrank, a contributing editor to National Journal who has covered 10 presidential administrations in his career, as marveling at McEnany’s work.
“[M]ost press secretaries routinely come to the podium armed with talking points, opening statements and comebacks for likely questions given the topics of the moment,” DeFrank said.
“But Kayleigh arrives with the War and Peace of briefing materials. In more than 52 years of covering WH briefings, I’ve never seen a binder that prodigious at a regular briefing,” he added.
Wemple said this helps McEnany do her job well.
“Watching McEnany in front of a depleted group of reporters, it’s evident that responses are workshopped — vetted and rehearsed. It is possible, accordingly, that McEnany represents the very best day-to-day defense that Trumpism can procure,” he wrote.
“The president has routinely acknowledged and expressed the absolute atrocity of the case of George Floyd, and his heart goes out to that family still,” she replied. “He was noting a fact that there were — when you look at unarmed killings with police interactions in this country, that you had nine unarmed black individuals who were fatally shot and 19 unarmed white individuals. That’s down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015.
“So numbers have actually come down since the Obama administration. He was making that point.
“But one point he wants to strongly make is this: that black men and women who die of homicide, they’re likely to die of homicide at eight times greater than that of white individuals and Hispanics combined. That’s the rate combined. So that’s an extraordinary thing that we want to look at,” she said.
“I’ve listed for you the names of these kids who have died across this country. It is unacceptable, and under this president, he’ll take action.
“And the derelict mayor of Chicago should step up and ask for federal help because she’s doing a very poor job at securing her streets.”
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