Fox News host Kayleigh McEnany says she ‘never lied’ as Trump press secretary

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<span>Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP</span>
Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

The White House press secretary turned Fox News contributor Kayleigh McEnany has claimed she “never lied” while speaking for Donald Trump.

Related: Trump finds historical muse in tourmate and ex-Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly

Addressing a conservative group on Sunday, McEnany said of her first steps in the role: “And then there was the question, ‘Will you ever lie to us?’, and I said without hesitation, ‘No’, and I never did, as a woman of faith.

“As a mother of baby Blake, as a person who meticulously prepared at some of the world’s hardest institutions, I never lied. I sourced my information, but that will never stop the press from calling you a liar.”

The press has questioned the veracity of McEnany’s claims. So have political factchecking sites. For instance, Politifact gave McEnany a “pants on fire” rating last September after she told reporters: “The president never downplayed the virus.”

She was responding to questions about reporting by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, to whom Trump said in March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold: “To be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Politifact said: “The record shows she’s wrong.”

McEnany restarted White House briefings after more than 400 days without one under Stephanie Grisham. Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders also presided over a deterioration in relations between the press and the White House and, critics said, the relationship between the White House and truth.

Reporting McEnany’s first appearance, on 1 May 2020, the Guardian said that “even on an assured debut, McEnany skated close to peddling dodgy information about Trump’s responses to the coronavirus pandemic (‘This president has always sided on the side of data’) and allegations of sexual misconduct (‘He has always told the truth’).”

The Washington Post’s factcheckers put Trump’s final tally of false or misleading claims at 30,573.

At the Turning Point USA Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas, McEnany said she came up with a motto for her press operation: “Offense only.”

“Because I knew what we were up against. Republicans always get the bad headlines, always get the false stories, always get the lies, if I can use that word, told by the press. There is one standard for Democrats and another for Republicans, and we must be on offense, confident, bold and willing to call it out. We cannot be silent.”

Regarding supposed lying by the press, McEnany cited coverage of the clearing of Lafayette Square, intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops and the theory the coronavirus escaped a laboratory in China – all stories subject to evolving reporting.

Related: Jen Psaki likens Fox News reporters to Russian and Chinese propagandists

McEnany is one of a number of veterans of the Trump White House to have found roles at Fox News, where she is a commentator and co-hosts Outnumbered.

But when she was press secretary, even Fox News cut away from her remarks when she advanced Trump’s lie that his defeat by Biden was the result of electoral fraud.

In March, responding to news of McEnany’s new job, an anonymous Fox News staffer quoted by the Daily Beast referred to the 6 January attack on the US Capitol in calling McEnany “a mini-Goebbels” who “helped incite an insurrection on our democracy”.

On Sunday, amid uproar over her claim never to have lied in service of Trump, she tweeted: “Haters will hate!”

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