- In 2015, Kayleigh McEnany, President Donald Trump’s newly-installed White House press secretary, called Trump a “racist” and said he made “derogatory” and “hateful” comments about Mexican immigrants, CNN reported.
- “Donald Trump has shown himself to be a showman, I don’t think he is a serious candidate,” McEnany said in television segments on CNN and Fox Business in 2015. “I think it is a sideshow.”
- But McEnany’s apparently strong distaste for Trump’s politics and rhetoric didn’t prevent her from quickly transforming into a fierce defender of his as he dominated the Republican primary.
- McEnany is one of several people in Trump’s orbit who attacked him, called him an authoritarian, and said he was unfit for office before joining his ranks.
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Before Kayleigh McEnany, President Donald Trump’s newly-installed White House press secretary, became one of Trump’s most aggressive defenders, she thought he was “a progressive” who made “racist” comments about Mexican immigrants.
In television segments on CNN and Fox Business in 2015, newly unearthed by CNN, McEnany repeatedly made the case that Trump wasn’t a Republican and that he intentionally used inflammatory rhetoric to rile up the right-wing base.
Shortly after Trump officially joined the presidential race in June 2015, McEnany argued that Trump’s claim that Mexican immigrants are “rapists” was “racist.”
“To me, a racist statement is a racist statement. I don’t like what Donald Trump said,” she said during an appearance on CNN, adding that the remarks were “derogatory” and “hateful.”
McEnany argued that “mainstream Republican[s]” don’t want to deport undocumented immigrants, a process she said is “not the American way,” and that they instead support “some path to citizenship.”
She added, “Donald Trump has shown himself to be a showman, I don’t think he is a serious candidate. I think it is a sideshow. It’s not within the mainstream of the candidates.”
McEnany also called Trump a “Republican in name only,” pointing to his past donations to Democrats and policy positions.
“I don’t want to claim this guy,” she added. “Donald Trump, if we’re going to be honest, is a progressive. He supports eminent domain. He supported tax increases before. He’s donated $US300,000 to Democratic candidates. So, the fact that the Republican Party is now having to claim him, is both unfortunate, and to me, inauthentic. Because this is not a true Republican candidate. And the fact that he’s being portrayed as such in media is troublesome and not accurate.”
But McEnany’s apparently strong distaste for Trump’s politics and rhetoric didn’t prevent her from quickly transforming into a fierce defender of his as he dominated the Republican primary.
“Those comments are despicable,” she said in October 2016, after The Washington Post reported on a lewd tape in which Trump boasted about grabbing women by the genitals. But “he apologised for them,” McEnany said.
When asked whether he was advocating for sexual assault, McEnany disagreed, saying, “He said he starts to kiss a woman and then they let him do X, Y, or Z. That implies consent.”
McEnany left her job as a paid CNN commentator in 2017 to appear in pro-Trump “news” videos produced at Trump Tower that many compared to state-sponsored TV.
She later joined Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign as its main spokesperson, and earlier this year, she made her debut as his fourth press secretary, succeeding Stephanie Grisham, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Sean Spicer in a communications office that has experienced near-constant turnover.
McEnany is one of several figures in Trump’s orbit who previously attacked him and said he was unfit for office before joining his camp.
Kellyanne Conway, a senior counselor to the president and one of his most ardent defenders on the airwaves, described him as a grifter during the 2016 campaign, when she was a cable news commentator.
Trump “says he’s for the little guy, but he’s actually built a lot of his businesses on the backs of the little guy,” Conway said in February 2016. She excoriated then-candidate Trump for “not paying contractors” who worked on his projects and said the “little guys have suffered” because of his actions.
In 2016, now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Trump would be an “authoritarian president” who would violate international law.
He’s now one of Trump’s most loyal and trusted advisers, and has played a critical role in the administration’s handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also struck a similar tone during the 2016 campaign, describing Trump as a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.”
Today, Graham is one of Trump’s biggest attack dogs on Capitol Hill and has repeatedly gone to bat for him at several critical junctures, like the confirmation hearing of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and during Trump’s own impeachment hearings and subsequent trial in the Senate.