White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday suggested reporters want to see houses of worship remain closed as she declined to offer specifics on what authority President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Melania Trump thanks students in video message during CNN town hall Fauci says media will be ‘seeing more’ of him, coronavirus task force after press hiatus MORE has to override governors to reopen those facilities.
McEnany had a short but contentious briefing with reporters after Trump announced that he was declaring houses of worship “essential” and urging governors to allow them to reopen.
She clashed with reporters on the lack of specifics regarding Trump’s announcement on houses of worship, and she later scolded them for not asking about allegations involving former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s case.
Reporters pressed McEnany repeatedly on what power Trump had to compel churches to reopen, which she dismissed as a “hypothetical.”
“The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen, and boy it’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed,” she said.
Jeff Mason, a long-time White House reporter for Reuters, objected to her characterization, telling McEnany he’s “dying to go back to church.” He noted journalists were inquiring about whether Trump was encouraging churches to reopen even if it was not safe to do so in certain areas.
“Jeff, it is safe to reopen your churches if you do so in accordance with the guidelines,” McEnany said, referencing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on the matter that had not been publicized prior to the briefing.
McEnany then called on Chanel Rion of right-wing outlet One America News (OAN), who asked the press secretary if Trump had considered pardoning former President Obama for the unfounded allegation that he wiretapped Trump Tower and other unspecified crimes.
“I have not spoken to the president about that, but who I did speak to about President Obama and unmasking Michael Flynn were the men and women in this room,” McEnany said.
She then pivoted to a series of prepared slides that included questions she wished the media had posed about the Flynn case, including why Flynn’s identity was leaked to the press and why Flynn was “unmasked.”
McEnany then left the room without taking further questions.
The first portion of the briefing featured Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, who offered a detailed look at which areas of the country are still dealing with high cases of the virus and which ones are flattening their curves.
Birx said of houses of worship that she trusts community leaders to make the right judgment, adding that there are ways for attendees to properly socially distance.