‘I don’t call on activists’: Sparks fly at first White House press conference in over a month
Returning to the Brady press room after a lengthy absence, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany faced heckling and questions about the election, while trying to focus on the pandemic.
Friday’s briefing was the first since October 1, two days before President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus. McEnany herself had a positive test on October 5, and wasn’t cleared for live appearances until October 16. Then came the hotly contested election that mainstream media called for Democrat Joe Biden, though Trump has refused to concede, claiming irregularities.
While the press conference lasted about as long as Thursday’s event with Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris in Delaware, the tone was completely different. McEnany tried to keep to the topic of Covid-19, but nine out of thirteen questions she acknowledged on Friday – not counting Brian Karem’s heckling – were from reporters demanding to know why Trump hasn’t conceded yet and arguing he really, really should.
Weijia Jiang of CBS did ask about the virus, framing the 250,000 deaths as a White House failure and accusing the administration of “mixed messaging” on masks and mitigation that, by implication, cost lives. McEnany’s response was to remind reporters of the estimates that two million people would die, and defend her characterization of Democrat governors threatening people with jail time for Thanksgiving gatherings as “Orwellian.”
She deferred the questions about the electoral lawsuits and campaign strategy to the campaign, pointing out that the White House is focused on battling the virus and “winding down wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” and bringing up a forthcoming announcement about drug pricing.
As Karem continued to shout from the back, McEnany declined to call on CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, saying “I don’t call on activists.”
WH Press Sec. McEnany ends the briefing after only a few questions, telling reporters “I don’t call on activists.”CNN’s @kaitlancollins responds: “I’m not an activist and you haven’t taken questions since October 1st … That’s not doing your job. Your taxpayer-funded job." pic.twitter.com/QkgE6d1Rzl— The Recount (@therecount) November 20, 2020
It’s understandable why someone who hasn’t done their job — taking questions from reporters — in weeks would confuse someone else doing theirs with activism.— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) November 20, 2020
She did take one last question, from OAN’s Chanel Rion, to deliver a mini-lecture to reporters as has been her habit. Noting that the FBI and the Department of Justice have been entirely silent on the election, McEnany reminded the press corps that Trump was never given a proper transition or recognition of legitimacy, but was instead spied on, investigated for ‘Russiagate’ and even impeached.
“There were no calls for unity, there were no calls for healing,” she reminded the press, before leaving the room to the shouts of frustrated reporters.
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