White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany caused another media meltdown today when she made a rather inconvenient observation about the media’s focus on nailing down the White House on where they stood on churches reopening whether or not the stay at home orders in their states allowed them to.
It was a “contentious” briefing, according to The Hill, which filed this report:
Reporters pressed McEnany repeatedly on what power Trump had to compel churches to reopen, which she dismissed as a “hypothetical.”
“The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen, and boy it’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed,” she said.
Jeff Mason, a long-time White House reporter for Reuters, objected to her characterization, telling McEnany he’s “dying to go back to church.” He noted journalists were inquiring about whether Trump was encouraging churches to reopen even if it was not safe to do so in certain areas.
“Jeff, it is safe to reopen your churches if you do so in accordance with the guidelines,” McEnany said, referencing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on the matter that had not been publicized prior to the briefing.
McEnany repeatedly referenced those guidelines as reporters tried different ways to pin the White House to the wall on churches reopening. Trump has made it clear that he wants churches to open, that he finds them essential, and the Department of Justice has also made clear that they believe governors overstepped their authority by putting severe limits on indoor church gatherings and even some outdoor gatherings.
But during the briefing, reporters couldn’t decide on their own position on the issue. Is it too soon to reopen churches? Or even if it is safe, does Trump have the authority to override governors on churches reopening? They seesawed back and forth, and made it sound like they wanted them to remain closed and/or wanted to pin the blame on Trump in the event Wuhan virus cases rose as a result, and a frustrated McEnany called them out on it:
Kayleigh McEnany: "Boy it's interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these houses of worship & churches stay closed."
Reporter: "Kayleigh, I object to that. I go to church. I'm dying to go back to church. The question that we're asking… is it it safe?" pic.twitter.com/UA2l0yzyLg
— The Hill (@thehill) May 22, 2020
Because only journalists are allowed to question anyone’s motivations, journalistic outrage ensued:
Kayleigh McEnany insults the White House press corps in the room by saying they want to keep churches closed. A reporter objects to that, says he wants to get back to church himself.
— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) May 22, 2020
.@PressSec Kayleigh McEnany's offensive insinuation that WH reporters oppose people going to places of worship–just because they had Qs about safety & Trump's authority–underscores that Trump's "order" to reopen churches is a political move.
— Jackie Calmes (@jackiekcalmes) May 22, 2020
Kayleigh McEnany, a U.S. government spokesperson, just ended the WH briefing by telling reporters which questions it should be asking on Flynn affair.
"It's a long weekend. You guys have three days to ask those questions."
— Chris Johnson (@chrisjohnson82) May 22, 2020
POTUS said governors must allow churches to reopen or he’ll take executive authority to overrule them. Journalists asked what executive authority he has to do that. The White House @PressSec said it’s interesting to be a room that wants to see churches stay closed.
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) May 22, 2020
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 22, 2020
This Twitter user got to the heart of the matter:
Woah, that was an intense briefing 😅 Kayleigh made a point- the press sounded opposed to open houses of worship. If grocery stores are open, why can’t churches, synagogues etc open? The press feeds on any inconcistencies to make headline news 🙄
— Lynnette (@Rebulera89) May 22, 2020
What the media are doing here is what they did on the reopening issue itself, which I talked about earlier this week:
The media, along with Democrats, demanded the country be shut down to fight the Wuhan coronavirus. Many states did just that. Some, like NY and CA, are still largely shut down. So with the country shut down, along with it went the jobs and the economy.
Not long after that, the media and Democrats then turned around and blamed Trump for the historic job loss numbers, which happened precisely because so many states put shelter in place/stay at home orders in effect (which, remember, is what Democrats and the media wanted).
But when Trump pushed states to reopen, the media and Democrats said it was “too soon”, even though reopening the country is the only way jobs and the economy will come back. Some Democrats and media types even accused him of being ok with senior citizens dying as long as the economy could get cranked back up.
Weeks later, they turned around and demanded a plan for bringing jobs back, knowing full well and good the only way to do so is by states opening back up (which the media and Dems, of course, are still pushing back on).
They are doing the exact same thing now, this time on the issue of churches reopening. Two weeks from now they’ll be singing a different tune on churches reopening, wondering why the president didn’t push for it sooner. It’s so easy even a caveman could figure it out.
Memo to the media: If you don’t want to be accused of not wanting churches to reopen, how about not acting like it next time? Just a thought.
Update: This is a good read on Trump’s comments on reopening churches from Andy McCarthy:
POTUS not claiming a general power to override governors. He is saying, in his non-ConLaw prof way, that governors have to respect the 1st Amendment. Thats a lot more sensible than a governor saying Bill of Rights is above his pay grade. 2/2
— Andy McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) May 22, 2020