Kayleigh McEnany, Donald Trump’s new press secretary, has a long history of anti-LGBTQ statements, such as claiming that a lack of equal marriage rights was not discriminatory and that transgender-inclusive restroom policies would enable predatory behavior.
And on other issues, she has shown herself to be less than prescient, having said that Trump’s policies would keep the novel coronavirus from infecting people in the U.S.
McEnany, who has worked in Trump’s reelection campaign and as a CNN contributor, was named White House press secretary Tuesday, replacing Stephanie Grisham, who ended her short tenure without ever holding a media briefing. Grisham will return to Melania Trump’s staff. McEnany is the fourth person to hold the White House press secretary position during Trump’s presidency, following Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Grisham.
“Throughout her career, Kayleigh McEnany has used her role as a commentator to attack LGBTQ people through the press,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a prepared statement. “Whether it be her opposition to marriage equality or her attacks on transgender people, McEnany has shown that she knows how to, and even enjoys using the media to spread dangerous, anti-LGBTQ messages to wide audiences. Unfortunately, in her new role as press secretary, she will have the power to continue doing so, but now with the White House name attached to hers.”
GLAAD has compiled a list of McEnany’s most egregious anti-LGBTQ statements. In 2015, as the Supreme Court prepared to hear the Obergefell v. Hodges case on national marriage equality, she argued that the issue was not discrimination but the right of each state to define marriage.
“If you tune into the mainstream media, you will hear a lot of farcical blabber about state-sanctioned discrimination, but that is not what this case is about,” she wrote on a website called Political Prospect. “The case before the Supreme Court tomorrow is about something entirely different: the right of the state to define marriage, a right that has been in its constitutional domain since the inception of this republic.”
When the ruling came down on the side of marriage equality, she said it was a threat to religious freedom. She also praised Justice Antonin Scalia for a footnote in his dissent from the ruling, in which he said he would hide his head in a bag if he had to join such a decision.
In February 2017, when the Trump administration revoked guidance from President Obama’s tenure that advised schools to let transgender students use the restroom corresponding to their gender identity, she again argued for the right of each state to make policy, and she said that trans access could enable predators.
“The reason conservatives want this left up to the states,” she said on CNN, “is that I do believe there is a viable argument, not that transgender individuals pose any harm, but that this could be utilized by some men, for instance, to go into female bathrooms, it’s happened at Target, which does have the same policy in place. Voyeurism issues where cameras were put by men taking advantage of the policies, not transgender individuals, men, straight men coming in and really being a predator against women.”
That ignores the fact that whether or not a business, school, or other entity has a trans-inclusive policy in place, such behavior does occur and it is a crime. Several studies have found no increase in predatory behavior as a result of trans-friendly restroom policies.
Additionally, McEnany has argued that Vice President Mike Pence, despite his long history of anti-LGBTQ stances, is not a homophobe or transphobe. “Mike Pence loves all people,” she said on an appearance with gay CNN anchor Don Lemon in 2017.
She has made problematic statements about several other issues as well. In a 2013 article for The Blaze, a right-wing website, she claimed, “The feminists of today reduce women to their sexuality, and in doing so, set women’s rights back by huge strides.” And she has said that allowing women in combat is part of a “radical agenda.”
A very recent statement may come back to bite her. “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism come here, and isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?” she said February 25 on the Fox Business Network show Trish Regan Primetime.
“Since Ms. McEnany made that statement, about 400,000 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus,” The New York Times notes. Regan, by the way, left Fox Business soon afterward, having dismissed warnings about the COVID-19 outbreak as “another attempt to impeach the president.”