ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

The MRC's Crush On Kayleigh McEnany

The Media Research Center -- mostly NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck -- spent the past several months gushing over President Trump's final press secretary, cheering every "walk-off" insult-fest and allegedly sick burn of the media.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/4/2021

Kayleigh McEnany

In his July 10 column, the Media Research Center's Tim Graham took exception to some media commentators complaining about White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany's "walk-offs," in which she demeans an insults a reporter then, apparently believing this to be a mic-drop moment, hustles out of the briefing room. Graham quoted one observer saying that "these mic drops create delight for Trump and 'the universe of Trump-friendly websites,' who turn these commentaries into clips 'for the MAGA-sphere.' That's true. McEnany's commentaries are great clickbait for people who want to see arrogant reporters get a dose of their own medicine."

Indeed, a significant percentage of the MRC's content over the past year was over-the-top gushing over McEnany's walk-offs and her utter contempt for the media that she shares with the MRC.

The MRC rushed to defend McEnany after her very first day on the job on May 1. Two days later, Tim Graham defended her by playing whataboutism, complaining that CNN's Brian Stelter "slammed the first briefing by new press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, playing up AP reporter Jill Colvin’s question asking McEnany to pledge she would never lie. Stelter didn’t ask whether Democrat press secretaries were ever asked if they would lie from the podium, let along assess whether they did."

In a May 8 post, NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck uncritically quoted McEnany touting "the exoneration Michael Flynn got today" -- actually, the former Trump national security adviser was not "exonerated"; the Trump Justice Department simply tried to stop pursuing the federal case against him of lying to the FBI even though Flynn admitted twice under oath to doing exactly that -- gushing that McEnany "ended her passionate defense of Flynn and torching of the Deep State with a quote from Montesquieu and a nod to" a separate MRC post.

Here's a bigger sample of the MRC's slobbering work during the summer by headline, many of which were written by Houck:

Notice that several of those clips focus on CNN in general and Jim Acosta in particular, whom Houck has a pathological hatred of. Also note the juvenile, unprofessional nicknames: "Fake News Jim" (Acosta) and "Fredo" (CNN host Chris Cuomo).

Nevertheless, Graham played whataboutism over the criticism of McEnany, insisting that it was reporters who asked provocative questions, and not her, who were grandstanding, while taking a shot at Politico reporter Ryan Lizza's "live-in girlfriend":

Lizza isn't being honest, because he represents "pure theater" and "negative partisanship" from the other side of the exchange. On May 26, he asked McEnany this beanball question repeatedly: "We're about to cross the 100,000 dead American milestone...on Election Day, what does the White House view the number of dead Americans where you can say that you successfully defeated this pandemic? Is there a number?"

Recently, Lizza asked her facetiously, "Does President Trump believe that it was a good thing that the South lost the Civil War?"

Lizza's live-in girlfriend, Olivia Nuzzi of New York Magazine, beat him to the sleazy punch when she asked Trump on April 27, "If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died in the entirety of the Vietnam War, does he deserve to be reelected?"

This kind of question is performance art. It's a look-at-me spectacle, a Jim Acosta bump and grind. There's nothing "quaint" about it.

Strange how Graham is apparently scandalized by two reporters living together without benefit of marriage while giving a free pass to a president who paid hush money to porn stars. That's performance art too.

The swooning continues

As the election neared, Houck continued to fanboy all over himself every time McEnany did a press briefing. here's a few headlines to how the swooning has gone since the last time we checked in in the run-up to the election, with more sycophantic odes to her petulant "mic drop" moments:

That last post, on Oct. 1, was filled with more embarrassing gushing from Houck:

After Tuesday’s exhausting presidential debate and Wednesday’s 20-minute cage match between Chris Cuomo and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Thursday’s White House press briefing was an unmitigated disaster thanks to meltdowns from reporters demanding President Trump and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denounce white supremacist groups on what must be a near-constant basis, regardless of what Trump has said in the past.

Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts went first and asked McEnany “for a definitive and declarative statement without ambiguity or deflection” of Trump “denounc[ing] white supremacism and groups that espouse it, in all their forms.”

McEnany noted that it was answered on Tuesday at the debate and on Wednesday (thanks to a question from Roberts’s wife Kyra Phillips of ABC) and noted three direct instances of when he’s denounced hate during his presidency.

That press conference, however, was the last McEnany held before the election. That meant Houck had to contain himself for a month and a half until Nov. 20, when his fanboying made up for lost time:

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a formal press briefing for the first time in almost two months and, as expected, she didn’t disappoint by opening with a timeline on coronavirus vaccines the liberal media so desperately worked to undermine and ended by smacking down the hurt feelings of liberal reporters like CNN’s Kaitlan Collins after they weren’t called on.

Houck touted her "closing statement," and added: "To be clear, McEnany’s opening statements shouldn’t be undersold either and Friday’s consisted of a thorough timeline in the federal government’s push to find coronavirus vaccine."

Houck had to wait a few more weeks for his next opportunity to gush (and McEnany's next briefing), which he did on Dec. 15, under the headline "Absolutely Fire":

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany opened and closed the press briefing by savaging the liberal media for their behavior regarding on their hopes that a coronavirus vaccine wouldn’t be available in 2020, their purposeful refusal to cover a Chinese spy cozying up to Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and waiting until after the presidential election to both cover and give credence to probes of Hunter Biden’s corrupt business dealings.

McEnany first addressed the liberal media’s wishes failing to come to fruition due to the overwhelming success of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative.


Surprisingly, the briefing proceeded without any real fanfare or fireworks in the Q&A portion with reporters behaving themselves and choosing not to go down the route colleagues like Jim Acosta, Peter Alexander, Brian Karem, Paula Reid, or April Ryan would normally go down. For the sake of the country, McEnany chose not to call on Acosta.

The only "Absolutely Fire" we're seeing may be Houck's apparent crush on McEnany -- and his burning hate for Acosta and every other CNN employee.

Houck is clearly going to have a hole in his heart when McEnany leaves the White House.

Houck capped off his year of gushing with a Dec. 28 roundup post sycophantically headlined "Tour de Force: Here Are the Top Ten Kayleigh McEnany Smackdowns of 2020." Houck gushed further in a tweet: "Kayleigh was masterful as @PressSec. In terms of personnel, she was one of President Trump's best hires. And even though her first briefing came in May, it was still a tough time narrowing down to ten. If the press had to face Kayleigh for four years, there'd be no one left."

That earned Houck praise from his idol, who retweeted the item with the message, "You are great! Thanks." Houck probably slept that night with his arms wrapped gently around a printed version of that tweet.

Not once in his many months of swooning over McEnany did Houck even consider the possibility that a White House press secretary's job should be imparting information and not doing performative "smackdowns" and "mic drops."

Neither Houck nor anyone else at the MRC said a word about McEnany's final appearance in the White House briefing room on Jan. 7, in which she performed an extremely awkward "mic drop" by spending less than two minutes reading a prepared statement claiming that Trump denounced the violence, then left the room refusing to take questions.

Double standard on protecting McEnany's honor

The MRC defended McEnany in other ways. Mark Finkelstein ranted in a July 1 NewsBusters post:

On her MSNBC show this afternoon, the sexist Nicolle Wallace slighted Kayleigh McEnany, President Trump's spokesperson, as a "spokesgal."

It actually got worse. Wallace noted that Keir Simmons, the NBC reporter with whom she was speaking, had spoken with Vladimir Putin's "right-hand man," and that he sounded similar to President Trump's "right-hand spokesgal."

So according to Nicolle Wallace's sexist standards, a senior male aide to Putin is a "man." But a senior female aide is a "gal."

I'm guessing Harvard Law grad McEnany will let the slight by this liberal lightweight roll off her back. But it's a fascinating take for someone who complains Trump "bullies female reporters."

But imagine the MSM fainting spells if a conservative like Rush Limbaugh had said the same about a Democrat [sic] spokeswoman? Or called Nicolle a "spokesgal" for Biden?

Would Finkelstein faint if he know that his employer engaged in the very same behavior he's attacking Wallace for? Because it did.

The lead sexist perpetrator here is MRC writer Gabriel Hays, who loves to bandy the word "gals" around to demean women:

  • In a February 2019 post, he wrote: "For tennis legend and gay rights activist Martina Navratilova, it’s clear that she’s far from being the hippest gal on the LGBTQ scene."
  • In March 2019, Hays mocked Anita Hill and singer Katy Perry for getting awards, declaring that it meant "acknowledging women who write bubblegum pop songs for tweens with self-esteem issues and those gals around the world trying to smear the good name of potential SCOTUS nominees. "
  • Hays followed that with a July 2019 post mocking the U.S. women's soccer team for seeking pay that reflected their on-field success: "Hot off the heels of the U.S. Women’s World Cup victory, Hollywood and the media jumped at the pseudo-issue that is a pay disparity between women and men players, parroting the line that the gals are being shafted in their salaries.
  • Hays also huffed in an October 2019 post: "[Bette] Midler’s the kind of quality gal who, upon hearing news of pro-life legislation being passed, will tweet things like, 'Buy stock in coat hangers! Here we go, 60 years, back to the back alleys!'" In another post that month, Hays sneered that Chrissy Teigen "sure ain’t no brave, righteous gal" for responding in kind to a nasty attack from President Trump.

He's not the only one, of course. In August 2017, Curtis Houck attacked Wallace as among the "guys and gals ... who loved what Jim Acosta did in treating a poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty like it’s the law of the land."

And Matt Philbin sniffed in an April 30 post attacking those concerned about women being vulnerable to coronavirus: "Women are, by the authors’ admission, more likely to be “essential workers” (70% of healthcare workers are women) and so they haven’t had their livelihoods destroyed. But okay, let’s talk about the plight of gals."

If Finkelstein had the guts to call out Hays and his fellow MRCers doing the same thing he furiously denounced Wallace for doing, he would be a profile in courage. On the other hand, he likely wouldn't be writing for the MRC anymore.

Send this page to:

Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-2021 Terry Krepel