Call it the Sarah Sanders school of media management.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany hasn’t been long in the post, but her handling of the divas of the Washington media corps is taking a page out of one of her predecessor’s books.
And she’s getting plenty of positive reviews from Americans tired of watching incessant, Lilliputian attacks on President Donald Trump, aimed at tying him down from the business of running the government — and running for re-election at the same time.
Like Sanders, whose service as press secretary was marked by a consistent willingness to do combat with arrogant correspondents — CNN’s Jim Acosta leaps to mind — McEnany hasn’t shied away from taking on the media corps in sometimes personal terms.
And her appearance Tuesday on the Fox News morning program Fox & Friends” was a case in point.
At the end of an interview dealing with topics ranging from former Vice President Joe Biden’s softball interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” to China’s bid to reopen trade talks with the Trump administration, McEnany was asked about a question Trump received from a reporter in the Rose Garden on Monday.
Check out Trump’s exchange here:
After @weijia asks President Trump why he sees the pandemic response as a “global competition,” he tells her: “Maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me, ask China that question, okay?” https://t.co/9T8aUPjUrs pic.twitter.com/aDQ5cwWvn0
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 11, 2020
Weijia Jiang, a White House correspondent for CBS News, questioned whether Trump saw increased testing in the U.S. as part of some global competition “if every day Americans are still losing their lives.”
Trump responded that lives are being lost all over the world, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, and suggested Jiang could take her question to the government of China.
Either perceiving an ethnic slur or — more likely — trying to gin one up, Jiang pointedly asked, “Why are you saying that to me, specifically?”
Instead of giving the question a response it deserved, like: “Because you’re the one who asked,” Trump said he was posing the question in general terms. He ended the news conference almost immediately afterward.
“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade asked McEnany about it on Tuesday
“Do you want to expand on that?” he said. “I guess she was saying that maybe the president was saying that because she’s Asian. Did that figure into that at all?”
McEnany’s response was scathing.
“No, that’s a ridiculous assertion,” she said. “But what I would note is, leave it to members of the White House press corps to make it about them, to take a question, to turn around and somehow say, ‘How dare you ask this of me, me, me.’
“Well, guess what? It’s not about ‘me.’ This is about the American people.
“President Trump says, ask China about this, ask China about the fact that they slow-walked information, that alongside the [World Health Organization] that American lives were put at risk. China has some real questions to answer here. But leave it [to] the White House press corps to make it about themselves.”
It’s the kind of bare-knuckled approach McEnany demonstrated at a briefing last week when she responded to a baiting question about a previous statement she’d made by hurling the words of major news outlets back at them in a way that would have embarrassed honest adults. (The Washington media corps was unembarrassed.)
Her approach has made plenty of fans among viewers:
McEnany on Trump, Asian Reporter Exchange:
‘Leave It to Members of the White House Press Corps to Make It About Them‘
— Off Grid Media (@OffGridMedia) May 12, 2020
Dear Media in the Press Room that hates Trump,
Your act is so old and predictable that Kayleigh McEnany is prepared for every one of your hack, leftist questions.
The jig is up.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) May 9, 2020
— Ryan A. Workman (@RealRyanWorkman) May 9, 2020
Given the blatant hostility between Trump and the Washington media establishment — the same bootlickers who spent eight years prostituting the profession of journalism during the Obama administrations — it’s unlikely any Trump White House press secretary could be on warm terms with the vast majority of reporters.
Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, was treated like the new kid in class at a reform school for pathologically mean-spirited bullies.
It was Sanders, with her den mother discipline and an approach that exuded common sense tough while taking no nonsense, that set the standard.
While Sanders’ immediate successor, Stephanie Grisham, didn’t have the daily briefings Sanders endured, she also was a vocal critic of the Washington media’s laughably liberal bias.
Now in her second month on the job, McEnany is showing exactly the kind of grit a Trump press secretary needs wading in the shark tank of Washington politics.
Of course, every White House complains about its media coverage. As Kyle Smith pointed out at National Review last week, former first lady Michelle Obama, beneficiary of the most positive, undeserved media the country may have ever seen, gripes about negative coverage in “Becoming,” the Netflix documentary about her life (naturally).
But the open warfare between Trump and the Democrat-dominated Washington media corps isn’t normal — and the fault doesn’t belong on the White House side.
Constant baiting, insulting behavior, and too-inane-to-be-believed insinuations — like Jiang’s belligerently imaginative idea that Trump had somehow singled her out with an answer because she was the one who asked the question — have both poisoned relations between the president and the media and damaged Americans’ faith in the media overall.
But Sarah Sanders’ example taught her successors how to fight back. So far, it looks like McEnany learned the lesson well.
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