An exchange between White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and a reporter for Al-Jazeera led to allegations that the reporter muttered an epithet.
Right-wing social media users accused reporter Kimberly Halkett of calling McEnany a “lying bitch” after a press briefing on July 21 2020. A clip of the end of the exchange between the two posted by the “@Breaking911” Twitter account was shared more than 2,500 times on the platform:
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) July 21, 2020
Halkett herself wrote on Twitter that she told McEnany, “OK, you don’t want to engage.” As fellow reporter Andrew Feinberg noted, the official White House transcript of the briefing corroborates Halkett’s claim:
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) July 21, 2020
The exchange and its abrupt end stemmed from a question Halkett posed regarding United States President Donald Trump’s “concerns” about mail-in voting; Trump had recently claimed once again, falsely, that mail-in voting would lead to “the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History.” (As NBC News reported, Facebook added a label to the post urging users to “get official voting info,” without debunking the claim.)
So he’s obviously concerned about the integrity of the U.S. election and certainly internal sabotage. But why are we not hearing from the President about fears about external sabotage?
For example, coming out of the UK today, there is a Parliamentary Committee report that says that Russia influenced the Scottish referendum; there are questions about Brexit. But we’ve really not heard the President put the Kremlin on notice with respect to the U.S. election. Will we hear from him today on that?
“The President today has put the world on notice that our election systems must be secure,” McEnany responded, according to the transcript. “This is — under this President, in 2018, he articulated the first full cyber strategy for the United States since 2003. In 2019, he extended the National Emergency Declaration on Foreign Election Interference.”
As Halkett continued to try to ask McEnany specifically about election interference on the part of Russia, McEnany instead cited a Wall Street Journal editorial claiming that mail-in voting had produced an “absolute catastrophe” in New York City. (A day prior to the editorial’s publication, more than 280 of the newspaper’s editors and reporters signed a letter criticizing the opinion section for a “lack of fact-checking and transparency, and its apparent disregard for evidence.”)
“What they found is 19 percent of ballots have been rejected in Queens, 28 percent rejected in Brooklyn,” McEnany said. “There are questions about mail — mass mail-out [sic] voting.”
“I’m asking about foreign interference,” Halkett replied.
“And I know you don’t want to hear them, which is why you talk over me,” McEnany said. “But I encourage you to read the op-ed.”
After that point, the audio becomes unclear as both women talk simultaneously, but the transcript reads:
Q: Okay, let me just redirect on the China vaccine research. Russia has interfered —
MS. MCENANY: Yes, you’ve gotten two questions, which is more than some of your colleagues.
Q: Okay, you don’t want to engage.
In May 2020, the Tampa Bay Times reported that despite claiming that there were “real concerns about mail-in voting,” McEnany herself has voted by mail in Florida, listed as her state of residence, eleven times in the past ten years. To date she has not told the newspaper whether she would support changing the state law to “to restrict voting by mail to those unable to vote in person.”
The flap between Halkett and McEnany came just hours after a confirmed account of profanity against Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As The Hill reported, Republican Rep. Ted Yoho cursed at Ocasio-Cortez after approaching her in the Capitol:
In a brief but heated exchange, which was overheard by a reporter, Yoho told Ocasio-Cortez she was “disgusting” for recently suggesting that poverty and unemployment are driving a spike in crime in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic.
“You are out of your freaking mind,” Yoho told her.
Ocasio-Cortez shot back, telling Yoho he was being “rude.”
The two then parted ways. Ocasio-Cortez headed into the building, while Yoho, joined by Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), began descending toward the House office buildings. A few steps down, Yoho offered a parting thought to no one in particular.
“Fucking bitch,” he said.
Ocasio-Cortez later confirmed the encounter, adding: “That kind of confrontation hasn’t ever happened to me — ever. I’ve never had that kind of abrupt, disgusting kind of disrespect levied at me.”