Channeling George Washington, Donald Trump, who has reportedly made 18,000 false or misleading claims in 1,170 days, recently proclaimed: “I cannot tell a lie.”
The president’s ministry of untruth has produced some whoppers over the years. Kellyanne Conway gained immortality with “alternative facts”. Sean Spicer used his first briefing as White House press secretary to inflate the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd. His successor, Sarah Sanders, admitted to lying to reporters about the firing of the FBI director James Comey.
The press secretary Stephanie Grisham never lied from the White House podium – because she never held a press briefing. So when the latest incumbent, Kayleigh McEnany, on Friday held the first such briefing in 417 days, the Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin had a question: “Will you pledge to never lie to us from that podium?”
Without missing a beat, McEnany replied: “I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.”
Expect to hear replays of that line before this presidency is done. Even on what proved 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 to allegations of sexual misconduct (“He has always told the truth”).
But the good news for the White House is that McEnany, 32, benefits by comparison with the desperately low standards of both her boss and her predecessors. Over the past month Trump has been a verbal cannon of insults, mendacity, miracle cures, self-aggrandisement and self-pity, culminating in a proposal about bleach injection to fight Covid-19 that caused him to be metaphorically led away by men in white coats.
Of course, everyone should watch the Fox News town hall with the president … It’ll be can’t-miss television Kayleigh McEnany