Photo by Tia Dufour

 Press briefing with Secretary Kayleigh McEnany escalates tensions between the White House and the press. What Trump thinks of the confederate flag, McEnany refuses to account for clearly. 


Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany kicked off the White House briefing by reiterating messages from President Trump’s Independence Day speech. His speech, which at points attacked the “radical left” and the media, “drew widespread praise by those who cherish our values, honor our history and seek to advance policies that lift up all Americans,” said McEnany.

McEnany went on to condemn the “radical left wing mob” and “misguided movements such as Defund the Police,” pointing out the waves of gun violence that occurred across the country over the holiday weekend. 

“We are one family, and one nation. We will teach our children to cherish and adore their country, so they can build its future,” McEnany said. “This vision is not a culture war as the media seeks to falsely proclaim, it’s an embrace of our American family, our values, our freedom, and our future.”

McEnany defends Trump’s NASCAR tweets

At the briefing, McEnany received a slew of questions about Trump’s tweet earlier Monday that attacked NASCAR for its decision to ban the confederate flag and falsely accused Bubba Wallace of engaging in a hoax for the noose found in his garage. 

Trump wrote, “Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused the lowest ratings EVER!”

Reporters pressed McEnany on why Trump is so intent on protecting the confederate flag when many acknowledge it as a symbol of hate and division. Even Mississippi, a state that long-held onto its pre-Civil War heritage, voted to replace the state flag depicting the confederate symbol.

McEnany pushed back against the question, stating that reporters took Trump’s tweet “completely out of context.” Instead, McEnany said, Trump wanted to point out that what happened to Wallace was not a hate crime even though the media was quick to call it one. 

In Trump’s tweet, he asked if Wallace had apologized for the “hoax.” A member of Wallace’s racing team, who found the noose, reported the incident to NASCAR; Wallace did not see the noose and did not report it himself. FBI officials later concluded that the incident was not a hate crime and that the knot appeared like a noose since October 2019, before the NASCAR assigned stalls to specific teams for this season. Wallace took to social media to acknowledge the results of the investigation.

McEnany compared the finding of the noose in Wallace’s garage to false instances of hate crimes, such as the incident with the boys from Covington Catholic and Jussie Smollett, who faked his own assault and claimed it was a hate crime. 

“We shouldn’t be so quick to jump into those narratives,” McEnany said, alluding to a part of Trump’s Independence Day speech in which he attacked “those in the media who falsely and consistently label their opponents as racist.” 

The back-and-forth concerning Trump’s tweet occupied the majority of the press briefing, yet McEnany consistently evaded talking about why Trump felt the need to tweet about and protect the confederate flag.

Trump: 99% of coronavirus cases are ‘totally harmless’

Over the weekend, Trump falsely claimed that most cases of coronavirus are harmless. In a speech at the White House, he said, “now we have tested almost 40 million people … by doing so, we show cases 99 percent of which are totally harmless.” 

FDA Commissioner Stephan Hahn declined to back Trump’s claim. In an interview with CNN, Hahn said, “I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong… We have seen the surge in cases. We must do something to stem the tide.”

However, on Monday, McEnany defended Trump and called his claim a “factual statement, one that is rooted in science.” According to McEnany, Trump referred to the case fatality rate of the U.S., which is lower than that of European countries like France and Italy.

“What that speaks to is the great work of this administration with therapeutics,” McEnany said. Later she added, “The President was noting the fact that the vast majority of Americans who contract coronavirus will come out on the other side of this.”

A reporter asked about current criteria for the travel ban, which bars entry from travelers from European countries where the virus’ spread is contained but not from hotspots like Russia or Brazil. McEnany referred questions to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said, “we’re working with countries around the world and we hope to have a day where international travel is open but right now it’s about putting America first.”

To a follow-up question about how the world looks at the U.S. pandemic response, McEnany replied, “I think the world is looking at us as a leader,” pointing again at the case fatality rate of the U.S. 

According to McEnany, at the height of the pandemic, there were 2,500 deaths per day. On July 4th, there were 254, showing a “tenfold decrease in mortality.”

Even as the death rate falls, the number of coronavirus cases rise, with many states seeing a spike in infections after they have reopened. Experts say that the death rate is likely to rise again and cases spike. 

The tense ending to the briefing

McEnany closed out the briefing by berating reporters for failing to ask questions about the waves of gun violence across the country. According to McEnany, shootings in New York City doubled for the third straight week, and over the last week, shootings skyrocketed by 142%. Five children died.  

“We need to be focused on securing our streets, making sure no lives are lost because all black lives matter,” McEnany said.

McEnany singled out Democrat-run cities like New York City and Chicago. However, these cities are not alone; homicide cases escalated nationwide before the pandemic hit and crept up again when stay-at-home orders in various states lifted. According to a national study, homicide rates dropped in 39 of 64 major cities during April but began to rise again in May.

Many attribute the causes for these shootings to the additional stress vulnerable communities face as a result of the pandemic, such as unemployment. Moreover, distrust of the police fueled by the murder of George Floyd may prevent residents from calling on law enforcement.

Candy Chan

Candy Chan is studying History with a focus on War and Revolution at Barnard College. She is currently a staff writer at the Columbia Daily Spectator, covering issues pertaining to Columbia's...

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