Watch: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tests positive for COVID-19, a day after speaking to reporters without a mask
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s previous prediction that coronavirus would not make its way to the US has come back to haunt her now that she has tested positive for the disease.
Ms McEnany said in February that Covid-19 would not come to America – just before the pandemic took off in the country – in a statement that has resurfaced on the day since she announced her own diagnosis.
Appearing on Fox Business on 25 Feburary, Ms McEnany, who had not yet been appointed to the roll of White House press secretary at the time, seemingly downplayed the threat of the pandemic while discussing Donald Trump’s China travel ban.
"Looking at the coronavirus, and with the president saying, 'look, we're not going to be taking in people from China right now,' isn't it just a matter of protecting our national security being really at stake, and he's sort of the first line of defence there," host Trish Reagan said.
In response Ms McEnany insisted that the US would not see “diseases like the coronavirus come here" and condemned former president Barack Obama.
“This president will always put America first, he will always protect American citizens," she said. "We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism, and isn't that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of Barack Obama?"
Social media users and journalists were quick to point to the clip in the wake of the official’s announcement of her own positive test, saying Ms McEnany had lied to the public.
Vox journalist Aaron Rupar said: "This absurd lie qualified Kayleigh for a promotion. Trump made her press secretary after this.”
”We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here… isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?” — Kayleigh McEnany, 2/25/20 pic.twitter.com/dXKHAKGrUn
— Matt Wilstein (@mattwilstein) October 5, 2020
Ms McEnany, who was appointed White House press secretary in April, said following the interview that the comment was taken out of context, and that she made the remark specifically in context of the travel ban from China.
“When I said this, @realDonaldTrump had already taken early action: assembled a task force & issued travel restrictions,” she tweeted. “Meanwhile, Biden called the President's action ‘xenophobic’ Pelosi said 'everything is fine” & ‘Come to Chinatown’”.
The press secretary has also faced a backlash from members of the White House press pool following the announcement of her diagnosis, after she spoke to the media on Sunday without wearing a mask.
Watch: Trump arrives at White House, removes mask immediately
“Kayleigh McEnany has repeatedly spoken to reporters without a mask on. She has recklessly endangered lives,” New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi tweeted mere minutes after the news broke.
Ms McEnany is one of a number of senior Republicans and members of Mr Trump’s inner circle to come down with the virus in recent days. The president announced he had himself contracted the virus on Friday, and spend the weekend in hospital before being discharged on Monday.
More than 7.45 million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the US since the outbreak began in the country in March, leading to the deaths of more than 210,000 people.