Kayleigh McEnany is Not the Problem, only a Symptom

Kayleigh McEnany is not the problem.

McEnany currently serves as the fourth White House press secretary in the current administration. Even though she is a graduate of respectable institutions, Georgetown University (my alma mater) and Harvard Law School, she is also part of the lunatic fringe “birther” movement that sought to discredit Barack Obama. She was also an early critic of President Voldemort but came around after he captured the Republican nomination.

Government press secretary is a hard job on any level. You report to an elected or appointed official but are paid by the taxpayers. On a very existential level, the job is to work with the media to inform the taxpayers what’s going on with their money. On a different level, the job is also to work with journalists to educate, because, after all, how many people really understand the byzantine workings and decision-making logic of government? And – and – you provide insights and perspective of the official or administration to whom you report, which help explain why decisions are made one way or the other.

Like her or loathe her, McEnany is an unenviable situation that she cannot publicly acknowledge (perhaps not even to herself). She cannot inform because she is surrounded by incompetence. She cannot educate because her superiors accept “alternative facts” rather than verifiable facts. All she can do is provide insights and perspectives, which can change day to day – or presidential tweet to tweet.

That McEnany seems to publicly embrace this situation is unfortunate for us. That she treats her government work as campaign work reflects on her lack of experience and poor judgment. That she allows herself to be part of the story is unprofessional. Her open contempt of journalists – who can help her do her job well — does not serve her supervisor or administration well.

However, professional journalists and amateur critics alike spend a wasteful amount of time and energy focused on attacking Kayleigh McEnany. She is the target of sexist and misogynist attacks (here and here). She is ridiculed for issues having nothing to do with her job (here and here).

What troubles me most is that she is subject to “gotcha” journalism (here) where observers seem to point at her and shout “Look! See! The truth about these liars has finally emerged!”

As if we didn’t already know the truth about President Voldemort and his enablers. Enough of the former have emerged from the shadows to do this work by writing books and essays about the dysfunction and malicious intent within the White House. We know this is not Camelot.

The bottom line is that journalists and others should not conflate her work with that of her supervisor. Kayleigh McEnany is not making the policy, only trying her best to defend the indefensible. Though her work may feed the media’s insatiable demand for content, Kayleigh McEnany is not fooling anyone. She is not convincing anyone, either. She is only wasting our time.

Kayleigh McEnany is not the problem. Nor were her predecessors Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or Stephanie Grisham (who may have understood her role in this administration best among all four). They and Kayleigh McEnany are only the symptoms of somethings much bigger than them. It’s that big things (just a few examples here, here, here, here, and here) that deserves our attention.


Original photo by Tampa Bay Times.

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