Give new White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany high marks for preparation on this tiresome strategy, but that’s only part of the issue in these briefings. Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked the approximate 437,289th White House press corps question about what she or other administration officials said about COVID-19 in January or February. McEnany simply held the media to the same standard as they apply to others in a mic-drop moment yesterday afternoon (transcript from the Daily Wire):
MASON: In a previous life, before you were press secretary, you worked for the campaign and you made a comment, I believe on Fox, in which you said President Trump will not allow the coronavirus to come to this country. Given what has happened since then, obviously, would you like to take that back?
MCENANY: Well, first let me note, I was asked a question on Fox Business about the president’s travel restrictions. I noted what was the intent behind those travel restrictions, which is we will not see the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism come here, referring to an earlier set of travel restrictions.
I guess I would turn the question back on the media and ask similar questions. Does Vox want to take back that they proclaimed that the coronavirus would not be a deadly pandemic? Does The Washington Post want to take back that they told Americans to get a grip, the flu is bigger than the coronavirus? Does The Washington Post likewise want to take back that our brains are causing us to exaggerate the threat of the coronavirus? Does The New York Times want to take back that fear of the virus maybe spreading faster of than the virus itself? Does NPR want to take back that the flu was a much bigger threat than the coronavirus? And finally once again The Washington Post, would they like to take back that the government should not respond aggressively to the coronavirus?
I’ll leave you with those questions and maybe you’ll have some answers in a few days.
I’m not normally a big fan of mic-drop moments by public officials, but this one was well delivered and overdue. It highlights an ongoing failing of the media in this pandemic, which is their obsessive campaigning against Donald Trump rather than covering the news — especially in the White House briefing room.
Let’s just stipulate that lots of people said really dumb things about COVID-19 in January and February, before the true nature of the pandemic became known. Officials said dumb things, the media said and wrote dumb things; even this “gotcha” from Mason arose from media pushback against Trump’s travel restriction on China, which at the time was characterized as an overreaction at best and an attempt to distract from impeachment at worst.
That’s not news. Neither is the constant march of “But in February, you said …” questions coming in these briefings, or the litany of such arguments coming from otherwise good reporters on their Twitter streams. Have they looked at a calendar lately? It’s THE MONTH OF MAY, for the love of God. Why aren’t they reporting on May?
Americans don’t give a damn about what was said in February. They want to know what’s happening today, what will happen tomorrow, and what federal and state governments are doing to get them back to work next week. If journalists want to know why their credibility is circling the drain with the public, perhaps it’s because their readers and viewers are seeing very clearly in this episode that journalists seem to care a lot more about their own hobby horses than the issues that matter to everyone else. If the White House press corps, of all groups, won’t focus on actual news, then what good are they?
McEnany’s dunk on the media is amusing, to be sure. Will they learn from it? I guess we’ll have some answers in a few days, but don’t get your hopes up. Maybe we should just pray that their reporting focus will move up to March, and that by Labor Day we’ll find out what happened in May.