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Kayleigh McEnany: ‘I Can Only Explain it to You. I Can’t Understand It for You.’

Claim

Former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said "I can only explain it to you, I can't understand it for you" at a press conference at some point in 2020.

Rating

Not True

Reporting

On September 7 2021, Trendolizer detected a viral Twitter quote meme; it suggested that former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters, “I can only explain it to you…. I can’t understand it for you”:

kayleigh mcenany i can only explain it to you can't understand it for you

By the time Trendolizer detected the tweet (by @WayneBroussard8), the account was suspended. However, a cached version was still visible on Google (archived here), and we captured a screenshot:

kayleigh mcenany i can only explain i can't understand

A Twitter account, @WayneBroussard8, tweeted “I miss her,” and an attached meme shows McEnany at a podium, with text at the bottom that said:

“I can only explain it to you. I can’t understand it for you.”

Google Trends registered an uptick in searches for “I can only explain it to you” between September 6 and 7 2021. McEnany was not linked to the search on September 7 2021, though she commonly appeared when the quote was searched by itself.

Initial searching revealed several attributions of the quote to McEnany littered across social media and blogs; none were substantive or pointed to any firsthand attribution. It showed up in places like a Reddit comment in July 2021:

“I can only explain it to you, I can’t understand it for you.” – Kayleigh McEnany

And in a Canadian editorial from November 2020:

Though I don’t generally follow White House pressers or give any endorsement to past or present administrations, I felt this one line I’ve seen online was rather brilliant.

The alleged viral quote, which may be mis-attributed or misquoted, thought to have been said by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is: “I can only explain it to you. I can’t understand it for you.”

During the same month, a blogger claimed McEnany stated the phrase at “a recent press conference”:

During a recent press conference Kayleigh McEnany told reporters “I can only explain it to you, I can’t understand it for you”, she was probably quoting Edward Koch who said “I can explain it to you, but I can’t comprehend it for you”. Someone can have truth to presented to them, but they don’t have to accept it. Again the idea is that I am ultimately responsible for accepting truth or changing my thoughts, no one can do that for me.

A search for the phrase “I can only explain it for you. I can’t understand it for you” in quotes returned a roughly half-and-half mixture of images of McEnany, and images of the phrase on items for sale — cementing its “article of faith” status:

i can only explain it to you kayleigh

Adding narrowing quotes around “I can only understand” and “I can’t explain it” along with “Kayleigh” reduced the number of returned results to 26. The top result was an iteration of the exact same meme, shared to the site NBATitleChase.com on October 14 2020.

As one of the iterations indicated, a variation of the quote was attributed to former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. A 2013 Goodreads quote page didn’t substantiate the quote, but rendered it as:

I can explain it to you, but I can’t comprehend it for you.” ― Edward I. Koch

Likewise, a search for “Kayleigh McEnany ‘I can only explain'” returned only 25 results, consisting of the meme or mentions of it. The second result was a CNN transcript from June 30 2020 (with McEnany quoted), but it did not contain any version of the quote.

On September 7 2021, a tweet meme claiming Kayleigh McEnany said “I can only explain it to you. I can’t understand it for you” was popular enough to appear on Trendolizer’s first page of viral links. The quote meme circulated as early as October 2020, and claims McEnany said the remark at “a recent press conference” were common on social media platforms. Despite the popularity of the meme, we found no indication McEnany said the phrase attributed to her, whether at a press conference in 2020, or at any other time or place.

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