On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnanay started her daily briefing in dramatic fashion. She strode to the podium, flanked by two television screens which played security footage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting a San Francisco hair salon on loop.
“Nancy Pelosi was not in the halls of Congress... she was not working in good faith to make a deal for the American people,” McEnany said. “Nope, Nancy Pelosi was found in San Francisco, at a hair salon, where she was indoors, even though salons in California are only open for outdoor service. Apparently, the rules do not apply for Nancy Pelosi.”
Since footage of Pelosi’s recent hair salon visit was leaked by the shop’s angry owner its quickly manifested into Fox News gold. Pelosi—who temporarily filmed without a mask—defended herself, saying that she didn’t know she was disobeying local covid-19 health guidelines and that she was “set up.”
Whether she was set up or not, Pelosi stepped in it. But the Trump administration is quickly reframing Pelosi’s flub into a week-long controversy, ludicrously elevating the shop owner into a martyr. And yet, decontextualizing and distracting are the most useful tools in the Trump administration playbook. It’s only natural that they’d weaponize the two against one of their most reviled political adversaries.
Focusing on Pelosi The Hypocrite is just the reprieve they were hoping for: The right has long characterized Pelosi as a ruthless diva, when they’re not rendering her feeble. This video transforms Pelosi into a bad meme, with the salon owner, Erica Kious, as helpless victim to Pelosi’s impropriety. There is now a GoFundMe for Klous with a $300,000 goal to help her relocate her salon following the “outrage” this Pelosi has allegedly caused, though it’s worth noting that Klous is the one who likely leaked the footage to the press, and Klous is the one who spoke with and appeared on Fox News to discuss the controversy at length. Klous certainly does not deserve to be threatened, but the Trump administration will happily make a martyr out of Klous if it serves them. (Not to mention being a victim is often lucrative, just ask RNC speaker Nick Sandmann.)
This distraction couldn’t have come at a better time: Trump is floundering in national and battleground polls, his law and order rhetoric is flopping, and the pandemic’s impact on college and grade school students is already beginning to take its toll as the school year begins in earnest.
Of course, the hypocrisy of Pelosi outrage is glaring. The administration’s lack of urgency against the pandemic from the start has now left more than 186,000 Americans dead. Americans remain socially distanced and under extreme lockdown as some countries are returning to some semblance of cautious normalcy. And while McEnanay musters up all of her righteous indignation over Nancy Pelosi tottering around an empty San Francisco hair salon, neither she nor her boss expressed concern over the largely maskless crowd of 1,500 that attended the Republican National Convention’s closing ceremony last Thursday, crammed together on the South Lawn of the White House, breathing all over each other as President Trump weaved a dull tale of chaos in America’s streets.
“Nancy Pelosi, you ought to apologize to the American people,” McEnanay said before taking questions from the press. But if anything, the American people deserve an apology from the Trump administration for dragging what should have been a two-day story tops into a spectacle in which footage of a Pelosi getting a haircut is afforded the same awe of satellite images of Osama Bin Laden in a secret bunker. While this was an easily avoidable controversy for Pelosi, rarely have the Republicans looked so desperate to get out of the hot seat.