Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany says the First Amendment does not give anyone the right to riot and quotes Dr. Martin Luther King.  

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany commenced the Wednesday White House press briefing by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his epochal speech “I Have a Dream.” Dr. King, McEnany implied, would not support the rioting and looting that have erupted across the nation in the past week. 

McEnany then took a moment to recognize the death of George Floyd and also of David Dorn, a retired St. Louis police captain who was fatally shot during the looting. “We are all Americans, we must come together, we must unify, and we must have law and order,” said McEnany.

McEnany: Trump’s Visit to Church is a “Symbol” of “Unity and Faith”

Many questions McEnany received were about the decision to clear protesters for Trump’s unexpected visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday evening. According to McEnany, Attorney General William Barr expanded the perimeter around the White House by one block each side Monday morning which failed to happen until late afternoon. 

McEnany said that the protesters were told to move out of the area around the church and Lafayette Park on three separate occasions over a loudspeaker and denied that law enforcement used tear gas or rubber bullets on protesters near the White House, as confirmed by the Department of Defense and by Park services. McEnany’s claim that police fired no munitions upon protesters contradicts what several protesters, reporters on the scene, and news outlets reported.

When asked repeatedly about what she would say to Americans across the country appalled by the scene, McEnany defended the police officers’ right to defend themselves, noting that protesters threw projectiles such as bricks and frozen water bottles at officers. Reporters on the scene, like CNN’s Alexander Marquardt, said that the protest was peaceful and denied seeing such conduct. 

Later when reporters asked McEnany why it was important for Trump to visit the church, she replied, “the President wanted to send a very powerful message that we will not be overcome by looting, by rioting, by burning. This is not what defines America.”

McEnany compared Trump’s decision to that of Winston Churchill inspecting bomb damage in 1941 and that of George W. Bush throwing the ceremonial first pitch after 9/11.

“It was a very important symbol for the American people to see that we will get through this through unity and through faith,” McEnany said. 

McEnany: ‘What was New York doing?’

When asked about the possibility of sending the National Guard to New York, McEnany referred to the Insurrection Act of 1807 which empowers the President to deploy the military and National Guard within the U.S. “The President will do whatever is necessary to protect America’s streets,” McEnany said.

McEnany compared the protests of New York to that of DC on Monday night; while there was “rampant looting” in New York, DC was a “much different story.” 

“What was New York doing? New York was arresting people on burglary charges and then releasing 500 individuals after they had arrested them, so the weak-kneed policies of New York stand in stark contrast to the law and order policies of this President that has succeeded in securing this city,” McEnany said.

McEnany also received several questions about Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s statements made on Wednesday in which he said he does not support invoking the Insurrection Act. When asked about Trump’s confidence in Esper, McEnany replied, “as of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper and should the President lose faith, and we will all learn about that in the future.”

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...