Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:29 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: All right. Hello, everyone. Over the holiday weekend, President Trump delivered two defining, unifying, and patriotic speeches, which drew widespread praise by those who cherish our values, honor our history, and seek to advance policies that lift up all Americans.
The President outlined a vision for the future. The President outlined a vision for stronger and safer communities. President Trump said, "After all, what do we want? We want a strong military, great education, housing, low taxes, law and order." He went on to say, "We want safety, we want equal justice, we want religious liberty, we want faith and family, and living in the great communities and happy communities and safe communities. And we want great jobs, and we want to be respected by the rest of the world, not taken advantage of by the rest of the world." He went on to say, "We should all want the same thing. How can it be any different than those things?"
This message is now more important and more timely than ever. Radical left-wing mobs seek to tear down our monuments and our memorials — everyone from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass, and even Gandhi. Misguided movements, such as "Defund the Police," seek to leave our communities more vulnerable than ever. Case in point: This weekend alone, in New York, there were 44 shootings with 11 killed; in Chicago, 75 people were shot with 13 killed; and tragically, at least five of these individuals were children who were killed in cities across the country. An absolutely devastating loss, and we grieve for those families. Crimes such as this is dark and it is divisive.
This July 4th, the President said, "Our movement is based on lifting all citizens to reach their fullest God-given potential. Never forget: We are one family and one nation…We will teach our children to cherish and adore their country so…they can build its future."
This vision is not a culture war, as the media seeks to falsely proclaim; it's an embrace of our American family, our values, our freedom, and our future.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Kayleigh, I want to ask you just a couple questions. The first one: Why is the President so supportive of flying the Confederate flag?
MS. MCENANY: So I think you're referring to a tweet this morning. Is that right?
MS. MCENANY: Well, I think you're mischaracterizing the tweet. The tweet was aimed at pointing out that the FBI report of the alleged hate crime at NASCAR concluded that the garage door pull, which had been there since last fall, was obviously not targeted at a specific individual because, in fact, it was a garage pull and, in fact, it was there since last fall, long before these 43 teams arrived. And it was concluded by the FBI that this was, quote, "not an intentional racist act."
Q: For clarity, I'm asking you about the Confederate flags. My question is: Why is the President so supportive of flying the Confederate flag?
MS. MCENANY: The President never said that. Again, you're taking his tweet completely out of context.
Q: The President said that NASCAR saw bad ratings because they took down the Confederate flag, banned the Confederate flag. Does he believe NASCAR should fly the Confederate flag? And why don't they fly it here?
MS. MCENANY: The whole point of the tweet was to note the incident, the alleged hate crime that, in fact, was not a hate crime. At the very end, the ban on the flag was mentioned in the broader context of the fact that he rejects this notion that somehow NASCAR men and women who go to these sporting events are racist when, in fact, as it turns out, what we saw with the FBI report and the alleged incident of a hate crime — it was a complete indictment of the media's rush to judgment once again, calling this a hate crime when the FBI completely dismissed that.
Q: Let me ask you about some of the President's comments this weekend. The President said that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are totally harmless. Which members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force agree with that statement?
MS. MCENANY: So what the President was pointing to — and I'm glad you brought it up — was a factual statement, one that is rooted in science and one that was pointing out the fact that mortality in this country is very low. And I have two charts that we'll pull up to illustrate that.
The first chart is the case fatality rate in the United States. And as you can see, the mortality rate has gone like this — (motions downward) — the case fatality rate. And also, in the second chart you'll see — hopefully they have it up behind me — but the case rate — fatality rate in this country vis-à-vis other European countries is much lower than, let's say, France and Italy. And what that speaks to is the great work of this administration with therapeutics and remdesivir and dexamethasone. And that's what the President was pointing out.
Q: So I want to get back to —
MS. MCENANY: Jon.
Q: — just to follow up quickly, though. So if you don't die, is it not harmless?
MS. MCENANY: The President was noting the fact that the vast majority of Americans who contract coronavirus will come out on the other side of this. Of course, he takes this very seriously. Of course, no one wants to see anyone in this country contract COVID, which is why the administration has fought hard to make sure that's not the case with our historic response effort.
Q: Kayleigh, to follow on Peter's question, what is the President's position? Does he think NASCAR made a mistake by banning the Confederate flag?
MS. MCENANY: So he said he — I spoke to him this morning about this, and he said he was not making a judgment one way or the other. The intent of the tweet was to stand up for the men and women of NASCAR and the fans and those who have gone, and this rush to judgment of the media to call something a hate crime when, in fact, the FBI report concluded this was not an intentional racist act. And it very much mirrors other times when there have been a rush to judgment, let's say with the Covington boys or with Jussie Smollett.
Q: But let's drill down on the Confederate flag. Does he think it was a mistake for NASCAR to ban it?
MS. MCENANY: The President said he wasn't making a judgment one way or the other. You're focusing on —
Q: But what is his position on it?
MS. MCENANY: — one word at the very bottom of a tweet that's completely taken out of context and neglecting the complete rush to judgment on this.
Q: Wasn't he saying that NASCAR's rating were down because they banned the flag? That's what he said.
MS. MCENANY: The President was noting the fact that, in aggregate, this notion that NASCAR men and women who have gone and who are being demeaned and called racist, and being accused in some venues of committing a hate crime against an individual, those allegations were just dead wrong.
Q: Does he think —
MS. MCENANY: Paula.
Q: Does he think his supporters should not take the flag to Trump rallies? Has he considered banning the Confederate flag from Trump rallies?
MS. MCENANY: Well, at Trump rallies, all flags that are not official campaign gear are banned.
Q: Kayleigh, why is it Bubba Wallace's responsibility to apologize for an investigation into a noose that he didn't report and he never even saw? It was NASCAR that found this, that reported this. And even the FBI referred to it as a noose, even if they said it wasn't a specific crime against Mr. Wallace. Why is the President even suggesting that Mr. Wallace should apologize?
MS. MCENANY: Well, look, the FBI, as I noted, concluded that this was not a hate crime, and he believes it'd go a long way if Bubba came out and acknowledged that as well —
Q: He has.
MS. MCENANY: This was not —
Q: He has.
MS. MCENANY: — a hate crime, as noted —
Q: In interviews, he's been very clear that —
MS. MCENANY: — by the FBI. So, the President —
Q: — the FBI found this was not intentional.
MS. MCENANY: One of the things —
Q: Why is he directing this at Mr. Wallace?
MS. MCENANY: So one of the things that —
Q: He was a victim of a suspected hate crime.
MS. MCENANY: One of — this is where the President comes from, and this is where the President stands, and he actually hinted at this in his July 4th speech: "To those in the media who falsely and consistently label their opponents as racist, who condemn patriotic citizens who offer a clear and truthful defense of American unity, we want a clear and faithful defense of American history and unity. And when you level false charges, you not only slander me, you slander the American people." He believes —
Q: Who was charged? It was an open investigation, Kayleigh —
MS. MCENANY: — the American people are good. And the allegations —
Q: — into a noose. The FBI said —
MS. MCENANY: — and the rush to judgement —
Q: — it was a noose.
MS. MCENANY: — with Jussie Smollett and the Bubba Wallace case and with the Covington Catholic boys, we shouldn't be so quick to jump onto those narratives. Those are just three examples of those —
Q: But you're suggesting that Mr. Wallace —
MS. MCENANY: that have been proven false.
Q: — should apologize for an investigation that someone else initiated, suggesting he was possibly the victim of a hate crime?
MS. MCENANY: (Calls on next reporter.) Yes.
Q: The Governor of South Dakota flew back on Air Force One after having contact with somebody who had tested positive for the virus. Why was that allowed to happen? Did she have contact with the President on the trip back? And has the President continued to test negative since that interaction?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, the President is tested constantly, has tested negative, and those around him are tested as well.
Q: But why — the original question is: Why was she to allowed to fly back on Air Force One with the President, when it was known that she had had contact with somebody who had tested positive for the virus?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I'd have to refer you to Secret Service on that. But I'll tell you this: They take the President's health very seriously. They would never put him in a situation that would put him in harm's way.
Q: And just one follow-up, please.
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: On executive orders, the President has set a pretty brisk pace on those this year. And as a candidate, he had been critical of President Obama's use of executive orders, but he seems to have really stepped up the pace on these. And I wanted to ask, you know, what does he find — what is the strategy behind issuing more than one a week so far this year? And I know he's getting ready to issue more in the coming weeks.
MS. MCENANY: Well, he will use the powers in his executive toolkit to further the agenda of the American people. That's his intent with these executive orders. And I would just note that, with regard to the DACA decision, the Supreme Court has suggested he has pretty wide discretion to act.
Q: Hi, Kayleigh. With regard to the President's reference about the 99 percent being harmless, does the President worry at all that by downplaying the severity of the virus, that it will lead Americans to be less careful?
MS. MCENANY: The President isn't downplaying the severity of the virus. What the President is noting is that, at the height of this pandemic, we were at 2,500 deaths per day. We are now at a place where, on July 4th, there were 254; that's a tenfold decrease in mortality. On July 5th, 209 individuals, down 23 percent from last Sunday and the lowest Sunday since March 28th.
The President has made clear: We grieve when just one life is lost, but he wants to note the progress that we've made in treating this very serious virus when we have therapeutics like convalescent plasma, remdesivir, dexamethasone. Convalescent plasma, in particular, was spearheaded by this administration.
He's used — he's pulled down bureaucracy and allowed us to get to a place where we can have this declining mortality rate.
Q: And just to follow up on the NASCAR thing: You were saying that we're taking the tweet out of context, but this is what he tweeted. He says, "Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!"
How — how are we misinterpreting that?
MS. MCENANY: I've explained to you — this is, I guess, the fourth attempt, but we'll try it again — in aggregate, what he was pointing out is this rush to judgment to immediately say that there is a hate crime, as happened in this case, as happened with Jussie Smollett, as happened with the Covington Catholic boys. In an aggregate, those actions made it seem like NASCAR men and women were racist individuals who were roving around and engaging in a hate crime.
The President's intent was to say, no, most American people are good, hardworking people, and we should not have this rush to judgment, kneejerk reaction before the facts come out. The FBI did their job and determined there was no hate crime.
Q: Is the President comparing Smollett to Wallace?
Q: Hold on. Hold on. Just that one thing it wasn't clear in your response — and that's why I asked about it again, and it follows up on Paula's question — is: Why should Mr. Wallace have to apologize for that when his whole team and all of these colleagues came around him to show support?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, and that's the best of America, is coming around when the media alleged a hate crime; coming around and supporting Bubba Wallace as they should have done. I think that shows how loving NASCAR fans are and the fellow drivers.
But I think it's important that we point out the fact that there was no hate crime; the FBI concluded that. And President Trump was merely saying that Mr. Wallace should agree with that consensus.
Q: No, he's saying he has to apologize.
MS. MCENANY: Mario, yes.
Q: He's saying he has to apologize. That's what we're trying to ask you, Kayleigh, is —
MS. MCENANY: Mario, yes.
Q: — why should he have to apologize about that?
MS. MCENANY: I'm not going to answer a question a sixth time.
Q: But you haven't answered that question. I mean, you've been asked it, but you haven't answered it.
Q: You haven't answered it.
MS. MCENANY: Mario, go ahead.
Q: Kayleigh, on the Confederate part: Why would the President not praise NASCAR for removing the Confederate flag, particularly given the history of that flag, the symbol that it has for African Americans, and also what it represents in terms of just the treasonous acts and the insurrection against the Republic?
MS. MCENANY: So —
Q: Why would he not praise them for taking that down, even if it's a ratings (inaudible)?
MS. MCENANY: The President takes great offense when Americans — our kneejerk reaction summed up as racist. And in aggregate, the picture being painted here in this instant — incident seemed to be that there was that suggestion there, when, in fact, what we're seeing across the nation is this vast cancel culture where we're going to tear down our monuments, we're going to tear down Gandhi, we're going to tear down George Washington, we're going to tear down Lincoln.
It's really quite appalling what we've seen happen across the country, and the President wants no part in cancel culture. He wants to no part in the tearing down and defacing of Matthias Baldwin, an abolitionist; Philadelphia Civil War soldiers; John Greenleaf Whittier vandalized, an abolitionist. He wants no part in this, and he stands against the demonization of Americans, and he stands firmly on the side of preserving our history.
Q: But, Kayleigh, the Confederate flag is a different issue.
MS. MCENANY: He's not — I said from the very top of this briefing: He has not given an opinion one way or the other on that. I just spoke to him this morning.
Q: Kayleigh, why — what exactly does the President see as positive or uniting then about the Confederate flag? Why does he — why did he decide to tweet about it then, this morning?
MS. MCENANY: The President never used those words. Those are the words of a reporter, not that of the President of the United States.
Q: And, Kayleigh, to follow up —
MS. MCENANY: Yes, Phil.
Q: Thank you. The President argued on Friday, and then again on Saturday, that many of the problems the country faces stem from, quote, "extreme indoctrination and bias" in the education system. If that's the case, is he working with Secretary DeVos to address what he sees as a major problem?
You know, what — what steps is he taking to (inaudible) this? And could you give us an example?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I'd have to inquire about that, about specific steps that he's taken. I'm not aware of his conversations with Secretary DeVos, but I will certainly follow up.
But, look, we've got a real problem in this country. When you have rioters who — I have listed off some of the examples of abolitionists — there seems to be zero understanding of history when you're defacing the statue of Matthias Baldwin and John Whittier and Ulysses S. Grant.
There seems to be a lack of understanding and historical knowledge when the Armenian Genocide Memorial, remembering victims of all crimes against humanity including slavery, is vandalized.
There seems to be a lack of understanding of history when the first responders sculpture is damaged, when the Polish war hero statue, the World War I Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and absolutely the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment
Washington [Massachusetts] Memorial that honored African American soldiers who fought valiantly in the Civil War was damaged in Boston. We need to have a better historical understanding.
And I'll follow up with you about specific conversations.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. I have question about masks. The President has, sort of, equivocated on the issue of masks, and we know that a number of Republicans are starting to say that it's the single-most important thing that Americans can do to protect each other. What is the President's message to Americans who hear those messages and say that they simply don't want to wear a mask? What does the President say to those (inaudible)?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President was very clear last week that if he were in a situation where he wasn't tested daily and he was in close proximity and unable to social distance, that he would wear a mask. So he has made that clear. At his rally this weekend in New Hampshire, masks are not only handed out but they are recommended.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. I wanted to say, first off, point of fact: Bubba Wallace did not make any kind of false report. And I'm wondering, in general, why the President thinks that issue is worth his time and focus right now in the midst of a deadly pandemic? And then also, you've said he has no opinion on the Confederate flag. Why can't this White House unambiguously state whether or not it supports displays of the Confederate flag and —
MS. MCENANY: No, I said —
Q: — Confederate monuments, which are much more —
MS. MCENANY: I said in his —
Q: — a part of this question than Gandhi?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I said that, you know, he was — his tweet was not to indicate approval or disapproval of that particular policy of NASCAR. It was in aggregate to stand against the rush to judgment to call something a hate crime before the facts were out, when clearly the media was wrong about this, when clearly —
Q: But you said Bubba Wallace made a false report; he didn't.
MS. MCENANY: I never said that. Perhaps one of the reporters said that, but I certainly did not.
But he believes that we should be — that the truth matters and that the truth was: The FBI did a thorough investigation, and what was concluded — that there was no hate crime here. And we should all be grateful for that; grateful that NASCAR fans came together in a great display of American unity around Mr. Wallace. But then we should also be equally unequivocal about the truth of this situation here and that most Americans are great, hardworking people.
Q: But why is this cultural stuff worth his time and —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: — focus during the pandemic?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, he's focused on two things at once, something we're all capable of doing.
Q: And what about on an unambiguous statement on the Confederate flag? Are we capable of doing that?
MS. MCENANY: Look, the President has made clear he was not taking a position one way or the other in that tweet.
Q: Exactly. But why not?
MS. MCENANY: Yes. Yes.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. Two quick questions, if I may. Does the President support the Cleveland Indians and the football team here in Washington considering changing their names?
MS. MCENANY: I haven't spoken to the President on that.
Q: And the other question: Who came up with the list of historical figures that the President wants honored in his — in his garden of statues that he put out this executive order about? Who came up with the list of people to be included?
MS. MCENANY: So, I don't know exactly who came up with that list. I can ask about it, but it's a pretty extraordinary list of people. I think we can all agree on the fact that great American heroes are people like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. — these are incredible men and women in our history — Susan B. Anthony and Billy Graham. So I think we can all pretty much widely acknowledge that these are American heroes.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. The President signed the Payroll Protection Program extension over the weekend. There's $132 billion in the pot. What does the President think that that money should be used for if it's still there after August 8th? And then, in a CARES 4, specifically, what should be there to help small businesses?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so I don't have any updates on phase four. I've mentioned that the payroll tax is something of great interest to the President because it would help low — low- and middle-income Americans most. PPP funding — they've done an extraordinary job with that. Small businesses across the country have gotten this, and we've kept people on payroll. So he's very pleased with the progress that's been made there and the continuing functioning of the PPP.
Q: Would he veto a bill then that did not have the payroll tax relief in it?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I don't want to set parameters or conditions. That'll be up to the President when the bill arrives on his desk.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh, so much. As President Trump wants to reopen the country, what will be the criteria to cancel the travel bans? Because we know that the bans are still in place for European countries where the situation is under control. And, on the other hand, there is no ban on hotspots like Russia, India, or Mexico, for example. So what is the criteria?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so I don't have specific criteria to give you. I'd have to refer you to the State Department and Secretary Pompeo, and his remarks on the topic during his last press conference, as where we currently stand.
But President Trump and the administration have taken bold, decisive, and frequent action to secure our homeland, and a big part of that has been these travel restrictions. And we're working with countries around the world, and we hope to have a day where international travel is open. But right now, this is about putting America first.
And I want to say this —
Q: Kayleigh, can I ask one more question?
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: European countries, and now the UK, are starting to open for touring visitors, but the U.S. is still banned. How do you think the world is looking at the United States right now?
MS. MCENANY: I think the world is looking at us as a leader in COVID-19, because the chart I showed you, where you have mortality rate — and Italy and UK up here and across Europe, and you have the United States at a low case mortality rate — it's because of the extraordinary work that we've done on therapeutics and getting PPE and leading on ventilators and having excess ventilators that we were able to deploy around the world and help other countries. So that's what I would have to say on COVID.
And finally, I'd end with this: You know, I was asked probably 12 questions about the Confederate flag. This President is focused on action, and I'm a little dismayed that I didn't receive one question on the deaths that we got in this country this weekend. I didn't receive one question about New York City shootings doubling for the third straight week. And over the last seven days, shootings skyrocketed by 142 percent. Not one question. I didn't receive one question about five children who were killed.
And I'll leave you with this remark by a dad — it broke my heart — a dad of an eight-year-old lost in Atlanta this weekend: "They say black lives matter…you killed a child. She didn't do nothing to nobody," was his quote.
We need to be focused on securing our streets, making sure no lives are lost because all black lives matter — that of David Dorn and that of this eight-year-old girl.
END 1:51 P.M. EDT
Kayleigh McEnany, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343129