Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET
Kayleigh McEnany did something on Friday that her predecessor at the White House never once did: she briefed reporters from behind the lectern in the cramped confines of the James S. Brady briefing room.
McEnany, President Trump’s fourth press secretary, took over the job less than a month ago from Stephanie Grisham, who had chosen to work behind the scenes, saying that Trump was his own best spokesman.
McEnany, who has a degree from Harvard Law School, rose to prominence with her fiery defenses of Trump on television news programs.
In the Friday news conference, McEnany said she expected to make the traditional press sessions a more regular occurrence in the briefing room and vowed to make truthfulness a priority in her role.
“I will never lie to you. You have my word on that,” she told reporters.
Prior to taking the helm as the White House’s lead spokeswoman, McEnany was a spokeswoman for Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee. Mark Meadows, Trump’s new chief of staff, moved her to the White House in an overhaul of the communications shop.
Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, became the butt of late-night comedy shows for his blustery near daily briefings. Under his next spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, the frequency of briefings tapered off.
Trump has been his own spokesman for much of the coronavirus pandemic, and for weeks he briefed the press almost daily. In March, while talking up the performance of his team in addressing the crisis, Trump said his White House had “done a poor job on press relationships.”
“The only thing we haven’t done well is to get good press. We’ve done a fantastic job, but it hasn’t been appreciated,” he said.
Last week, Trump said he wanted to stop his daily briefings, but he has continued to take questions from reporters on a near daily basis.
One of the first moves by Meadows, who took over as chief of staff in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, was to shake up press operations. He gave two of his longtime aides — Ben Williamson and Alyssa Farah — key leadership roles and brought in McEnany.
McEnany’s debut in the briefing room was announced in a late-night tweet by Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director, who was also elevated by Meadows in the press shop overhaul.
The room, known for its iconic royal blue chairs, will look a bit different for McEnany than it did for her predecessors. The White House Correspondents’ Association has been staggering assigned seats to improve social distancing and reduce the risk of spreading the virus, leaving many seats empty in the normally standing-room-only space.
McEnany had been seen in the press briefing room on Thursday and was asked whether she would resume the briefing tradition. “Never say never,” she replied.