Trump's press secretary won't stop lying about pandemic — so New York Times toasts her with puff piece
the Normalizing Olympics continue
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Trump's new press secretary appears constitutionally incapable of telling the truth, especially about the nation's current public health crisis. She refuses to hold any briefings for the press, and she sits down almost exclusively for Fox News where she spreads toxic misinformation when not peddling ugly conspiracy theories. So of course the New York Times this week toasted her with a flattering puff piece, right?
Committed to normalizing Trump's presidency, the Times' feel-good piece on congenital liar Kayleigh McEnany (it's "energetic spinning" in Times-speak) perfectly captures the sad, ongoing failure for the Paper of Record in the Trump era. Rather than necessary truth-telling about how Trump has shred every conceivable Beltway protocol and standard in terms of honest, decent behavior, and in this case has hired a cable news troll to be his White House press secretary, the Times pretends it's all normal — McEnany's earning "grudging respect for her sheer doggedness"!
Quoting her right-wing friends ("She’s a meticulous researcher.” “She's fearless"), while refusing to quote a single Democratic critic, the Times blissfully toasts someone whose job it is to poison our public dialogue by lying everyday when she's not denigrating news outlets as corrupt and untrustworthy. We've never seen anything like this in American history, but the Times is too timid to say so.
For generations, the White House press secretary was hired to serve as a conduit between the Oval Office and the press corps, and to provide accurate information so that the Fourth Estate could inform and educate the public. Trump instead has hired a name caller who is clearly being paid to act as Trump's re-election spokeswoman, not to serve the White House's or the public's interests.
But all of that gets glossed over by the Times, where McEnany is merely a "pugnacious" “fighter” and toasted as a rising star in American politics, who just three years out of law school ended up among the right-wing media elites, thanks to a misguided assist from CNN. How did someone like McEnany, who had no public profile and who had accomplished nothing of significance by 2016, manage to land a plum, lucrative role as a CNN contributor during that campaign season? The Times doesn't care, leaving the impression that those TV jobs are basically there for the asking.
As for McEnany's relentless dishonesty about the pandemic, and specifically how she constantly makes stuff up about the state of crucial Covid-19 testing under Trump, the Times politely addressed that at the bottom of the article. Dismissing it as nothing more than McEnany "conflating" some facts and figures, the Times clearly signals it's not a big deal for the White House press secretary to be lying to the American people regarding a public health emergency.
For some reason the piece left out a rather infamous appearance McEnany made on Fox News in February when she firmly predicted, "We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism come here, and isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”
Also omitted from the glowing Times piece is the fact that McEnany is objectively bad at her job as press secretary. A key player on Trump's communications team, the president's approval rating for his botched handling of the pandemic have plummeted since McEnany's promotion, in part because of his derailed communications strategy of holding daily, incoherent pandemic briefings. Increasingly seen as untrustworthy, Trump has become his own worst political enemy this year. Over the weekend, Trump announced he'd do no more briefings. Then on Monday he scheduled another one, suggesting the White House's communication strategy remains in chaos.
This criticism isn’t about McEnany, really. It's about how the Beltway news media still portrays this incompetent White House, even during the time of a deadly, historic pandemic that this administration has mishandled by every public health measurement. Too many in the press remains committed to trying to normalize Trump that they're willing, during a massive communications failure, to run puff pieces about the people responsible for Trump's historic communications failure.
Politico pitched in this week with a big, pleasing look at Hope Hicks, Trump's former communications director who returned this year as a senior aide. Depicted as a savvy, hands-on manager “with her quick-witted sense of humor”, Hicks’ fingerprints are all over the flattering story, which is stacked with quotes from friends about how invaluable she is to Trump.
You'd think with the pandemic raging, reporters would finally put an end to the fawning White House coverage. Even Republicans in private concede the White House has done an indefensible job handling the crisis. Trump himself has been an awful public face for the administration as he has spent weeks alternately whining, lashing out, lying, and butchering key health facts during is daily briefings.
You'd think following another Trump meltdown weekend where he crazily tweeted about "Noble" prizes, Russia conspiracies, "Fake News," and the "Radical Left," advertising his malignant narcissism and anti-social behavior, Politico would think twice about tipping its cap to the president's top communications advisor. But you'd be wrong.
Outlets like the Times and Politico just can't help themselves. Chained to the narrative that Republicans are super-savvy and that Trump surrounds himself with superstars, the press showers attention and praise on people who not only fail at their jobs, but actively shred public trust for a living.
On Monday, I noted that in six weeks the Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. under Trump would soon surpass the U.S. death toll for the Vietnam War, which stretched out over 9 years. I asked if the press has learned the right lessons from Trump's Vietnam. As Trump spoke at the Rose Garden on Monday, I asked on Twitter if any reporter would ask him about the pandemic-Vietnam connection.
Happily, one soon did:
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Major Lazer (featuring Marcus Mumford), “Lay Your Head on Me”
The Jamaican-American electronic dance music trio, Major Lazer, team up with Mumford & Sons lead singer for this mesmerizing new track. Mumford handles the vocals on the song, which is built on a sly dance groove and bolstered by lush background vocals for the hypnotic chorus. The effort reminds me of Mumford’s stellar 2016 collaboration with Senegalese singer Baaba Maal. Good stuff here.
And I can see it in your eyes, love
And your secret is not safe with me
You can spin through the night, with your powdered mind
But don't cover up your scars for me
The Times seems to be worse than the Washington Post. The Post was bad in 2016, letting Chris Cillizza wildly exaggerate Hillary’s email “scandal” but since Trump has gotten elected the Post seems to have grown a spine for the most part. Margaret Sullivan has an article in today’s post about the media allowing Trump to control them.
This article shows the problem with the insider chumminess. I suspect that is behind much of the timid media coverage. I had hoped that was a thing of the past but the fawning quotes from Van Jones and Donna Brazile show that is still a factor. If you are a member of the club you get the kid glove treatment. If you aren’t, then you are likely to get judged harshly No matter what you do. Just ask the Clintons how getting on Sally Quinn’s bad side resulted in disdainful and destructive media coverage.
Kellyanne Conway should have been permanently laughed off the public stage when she tried to justify Sean Spicer's astounding lies as perfectly normal "alternative facts." Instead she became a fixture on CNN, where her own lies in service to Trump grew increasingly outrageous. Finally CNN decreased her appearances, but should have banned her altogether. Spokespeople who do nothing but lie should not be given a platform. McEnany is just a younger, dumber version of Conway.