Two years after “yanny or laurel” reached the White House, the executive mansion was consumed Tuesday with debate about whether a journalist called White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany a “lying bitch.”
Kimberly Halkett of Al Jazeera denies swearing and says she told McEnany, “OK, you don’t want to engage.”
But journalists and political aides replayed the tape repeatedly Tuesday, straining to hear what Halkett muttered after a heated exchange.
A reporter for The Post, seated immediately in front of Halkett, heard her say that McEnany didn’t want to engage and did not hear her curse.
But other journalists lamented that a mask covering Halkett’s face made it impossible to see her lips during the crucial moment, or determine which way the comment went.
Halkett, who seemed to swiftly leave the White House press workspaces, weighed in to defend herself from a mounting social media firestorm.
“[T]here’s a lot of misreporting out there about that briefing,” Halkett wrote on Twitter. “I DID NOT. What I said was, ‘OKAY, YOU DON’T WANT TO ENGAGE.’”
Halkett had tangled with McEnany at the briefing over whether President Trump was doing enough to discourage “external sabotage” to the November election. McEnany defended Trump and his focus on the security of mail-in ballots.
“There are legitimate questions about mass mail-in voting. And I know you don’t want to hear them, which is why you talk over me,” McEnany said.
Halkett then said, “On the China vaccine research, this is very important —,” but McEnany shot her down, saying, “You’ve gotten two questions, which is more than some of your colleagues.”
Halkett then made the disputed utterance.
All audio from the briefing — both for TV broadcasts and the White House’s YouTube livestream — comes through the same feed, likely ruling out the possibility that different microphone locations caused clashing perceptions.
Tuesday marks the grand return of Trump’s 5 p.m. coronavirus briefings after a nearly three-month break. Many of the journalists from McEnany’s briefing will also attend Trump’s.
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