Kayleigh McEnany was born for her new role as Trump’s press secretary. During the 2016 presidential race, then-CNN talking head McEnany was an easy enough enemy for anyone left-of-center to despise. She spoke of Trump’s insurgent campaign with a crazy-eyed zeal, showing devotion that contrasted with the burgeoning Never Trump wing of the Republican commentariat. She always managed to have a pro-Trump talking point in her pocket, eager to meld any on-air conversation into one that lauded Trump’s nerve and bold vision, despite the media’s unfair attacks against him.
And her dedication paid off. By August 2017, the then 29-year-old Harvard Law graduate had left CNN for politics and was tapped by the Republican National Convention to become their spokesperson. Less than three years later, she’s accepted the White House Press Secretary job, replacing Stephanie Grisham, who didn’t give a single presser during her 10-month tenure. In reality, McEnany has been doing the job, in Trump’s vision of it, for a while. McEnany stuck to Fox News television appearances to spread the party’s agenda, and if anything it might have been her wide-eyed defense of Trump’s lackluster actions to halt the spread of covid-19 that helped her land the job as Trump’s official mouthpiece.
“This president will always put America first, he will always protect American citizens, we will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism come here,” said a breathless McEnany during a February 25 interview with the now sacked Fox Business Network host Trish Regan. “And isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it to the awful presidency of President Obama?”
This couldn’t be more on-brand for President Trump: McEnany doesn’t waste time conveying information. Instead, she dishes out Trump administration talking points. And McEnany has a years-long devotion to Trumpism–even embracing birtherism back in 2012—that likely helped convince the administration that she’s their girl. McEnany’s not easily rattled, she stays on message, defends Trump at all costs, and—importantly—has the right look while doing it. The Trump campaign has been building toward this perfect, media-ready candidate from day one, and she’s finally here.
For Trump, his every move boils down to camera appeal, and he values staff with tenacity who perform well under the pressures of live television. Trump’s spokespeople don’t have to be loved, but they do have to be formidable. It’s why Trump was so impacted by his first press secretary, Sean Spicer, getting lampooned on Saturday Night Live in 2017—portrayed by a woman to boot, a detail that particularly embarrassed the president. A top Trump donor told Politco at the time that “Trump doesn’t like his people to look weak.” It didn’t help that Trump never cared for Spicer’s briefings or his pale suits.
Spicer lasted until the summer. His successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was a Trump loyalist who was especially combative against the press and unlike her predecessor was able to lie with nary a stutter. But despite wearing clothes that fit—unlike Spicer’s rumpled and ill-fitting suits—she never looked quite right, like she was created in the Fox News lab where all their women commentators seem to originate from vats revealing petite bottle blondes with fillers and unshakable love for Trump. Sanders looked like an average middle-aged woman forced to wear business-casual, a look that doesn’t convey the unimpeachable intensity of the Fox News Blonde so endeared by the right.
When Sanders made her exit in 2019, she was replaced by Stephanie Grisham, aide during Trump’s 2016 campaign and transition team before moving to Melania Trump’s team in the East Wing. Grisham was forgettable due to the lack of pressers and minimal TV appearances, but she was younger and more poised than her predecessors.
McEnany checks off all the boxes: Unwavering, camera-ready, and by Trumpian standards, a knockout. She won’t have to deal with the press; Trump handles them in his daily covid-19 briefings. Instead, she’ll represent the administration’s lies in Trump’s preferred format: Television. She’ll answer softball questions from reporters and sing the Trump administration’s praises, all while physically embodying Trump’s ideal spokeswoman for his campaign and his MAGA agenda: tough, pretty, impeccably white, and ready to fight.