What would it be like to go from being an intern at the White House to being White House press secretary?
Kayleigh McEnany, the fourth and final press secretary to President Donald Trump, experienced that unlikely journey. She joins me today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss that passage as well as her forthcoming book “For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey Through the White House and Beyond.”
“It was surreal,” McEnany says of working for the president.
“My first time in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room was as an intern for [President George W.] Bush, as you noted,” she says. “Dana Perino was the press secretary, so I watched her go back and forth with the Fox correspondent, ended up interning at Fox, and [then] doing several internships.”
“But then, about 10 years later, I was standing at the podium myself, which was surreal, amazing. And I know it was only made possible because Christ had that path for my life even when I couldn’t see it.”
We also cover these stories on the podcast:
- A House select committee holds its first hearing looking into the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. The panel includes seven Democrats but only two Republicans—Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
- President Joe Biden releases a 21-point immigration-reform plan as the crisis at the southern border intensifies.
- Biden meets with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to discuss how to move forward the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
Listen to the podcast or read the lightly edited transcript below.
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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Kayleigh McEnany, former White House press secretary and now co-host of “Outnumbered” on Fox News Channel. Kayleigh, it’s great to have you with us.
Kayleigh McEnany: Good to join you again.
Del Guidice: Well, you have a book coming out called “For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey Through the White House and Beyond.” Can you tell us about the book?
McEnany: I wanted to write what to me was my account of being in the Trump White House, my interactions with President [Donald] Trump, the president, the man that I saw. And so I wrote about my time in the White House, but beyond just the time in the most powerful building in the world, I talk about my family and downsides to life and how faith got me through.
I’m very honest and forthright about how I was emotional before I went to the podium. I was actually almost in tears the first time, because it’s a nerve-wracking thing. And I got on my knees in the bathroom in the West Wing and prayed. And how faith, [in] the most nervous moments of my life, helped me through.
So beyond even a journey through the White House, it’s my faith journey. And there’s baby Blake, she’s featured in there as well, my little daughter.
Del Guidice: That’s really precious. Well, something that you mentioned in the book that I thought was so cool, there’s so many people that interned in D.C., and you had mentioned how you were a White House intern, and then you went on to be the press secretary. Can you tell us more about that and what that was like, to go from White House intern to a press secretary?
McEnany: It was crazy. I mean, it was surreal. My first time in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room was as an intern for [President George W.] Bush, as you noted. Dana Perino was the press secretary, so I watched her go back and forth with the Fox correspondent, ended up interning at Fox and doing several internships. But then about 10 years later, I was standing at the podium myself, which was surreal, amazing, and I know only made possible because Christ had that path for my life even when I couldn’t see it.
Del Guidice: You mentioned also in the book there were some never-before-told stories of your time there. Can you maybe tell one or two for listeners?
McEnany: Some never-before-told stories? Well, I told a few of them on the Turning Point USA stage. I think, let me see … I’m trying to think of a good one for your podcast. So I’m going through a bunch.
I mean, I would say, I think I told you about the press briefing, … when the president got COVID-19 was probably one. That was one of the hardest days in the White House, because it was someone who wasn’t just a boss to me, but someone who had become a friend. President Trump cared deeply about me, my family, my well-being, as he did about all of his employees. So when he got COVID, it was scary.
I went into the White House and most people weren’t at work. The press team showed up. We still had to do our job. Arguably, the most important day for a press shop is the day when the commander in chief, the leader of the free world gets plagued by this very scary illness.
We showed up and my team, we worked through the day and kept very tight communications. When the president moved to Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center], we were all very nervous for him, but he recovered.
It was good, but I can tell you, it was a haunting few hours there in the White House and very surreal, but I’m proud of the work our team did and so glad that the president and all those around him managed to make it through.
Del Guidice: : Well, I can imagine. So this book, at its core, it’s all about your faith. And for those who work in D.C., maybe, or other places, how would you encourage them? And how did you keep your faith central despite the barrage of just daily life and what all you had to deal with?
McEnany: Well, you’re right. The barrage of daily life happens. There are days where you’re just so busy in the drum beat, you forget to say a prayer during a tough moment or read your devotional or read a Bible, or you can’t go to church one Sunday because you’re on the campaign trail.
You’re right, the daily barrage of life takes over. But I think when you have a personal relationship with Christ, even when you on your side aren’t putting in the work, when you go to him during those hard times, he’s there during those valleys, he’s there to help you along the way. That’s when I discovered the times when I hear most clearly from Christ are the times when I’m in the valleys in life.
So I think even if you’re not someone who reads a devotional every day—I’m certainly not perfect. But during those hard times, I turned to my “Jesus Calling” at the advice of Sarah [Huckabee] Sanders, my predecessor, and she was right because it’s in those moments when he spoke to me and helped me through.
Del Guidice: Given your time in the White House as press secretary, are there certain things that you wish more people would ask about that they don’t ask you about and you’re like, “Hey, I would love to talk about that if people would ask me”? What are some of those things?
McEnany: I talked a lot about crime in the streets and [White House press secretary] Jen Psaki’s made the point and the Biden administration that the crime wave started happening during Trump’s last year. That’s absolutely accurate.
Also during Trump’s last year was the “defund the police” movement, was Democrat mayors and governors not prosecuting people who committed crimes. So there’s a reason it started going down. It’s because of leftist policies.
But I was deeply moved and emotional, I remember, at one time I saw a New York Post cover and it was a casket for a 1-year-old—1-year-old. And the headline was “The Image That Should Shame Every Politician in America.” And the casket is a beautiful, multicolored casket with the name “CoComelon,” which is a series that my own daughter watches.
So I said the names of people who lost their lives from the podium, children, Secoriea Turner, a little girl in Atlanta who was killed, but the press didn’t really have many questions about crime and there are real victims of crime. So I continued to bring it up. And now, we’re finally starting to talk about it.
But I think it’s important we say the names of police officers who have fallen, children who have lost their lives, because these are real victims. And I’m glad that I was able to use the podium to bring attention to these issues, but the press often ignores them because it doesn’t fit the left narrative. So I wish I would have been asked more substantive questions chiefly on those two issues.
Del Guidice: Let’s talk about the press a little bit and media coverage in general. What was it like working with the press when you were there? We all saw some of the briefings. You’ve mentioned it in your speech here at Turning Point. And now what you see on today’s press briefings and the Biden administration, do you see similarities? Is the press secretary indifferently? What is your perspective on that media coverage?
McEnany: First, let me start by saying the press serves an incredibly important role. Obviously, it’s important that we have a free press in this country. It’s central to democracy.
There are some very good reporters like Steve Holland of Reuters, a great reporter; RealClearPolitics, Philip Wegmann is a great reporter; Peter Doocy at Fox News, great reporter. There are many great reporters. Two of those were in my tenure and I interacted with them and I can tell you firsthand.
Now though, you have a press that, first day, they ask about what was it like for President [Joe] Biden to sit in the Oval Office. He’s been wanting this so long. That was a question. Questions about Joe Biden’s dog, Joe Biden’s cat, the Air Force One color scheme.
Del Guidice: Yes, I remember that.
McEnany: That doesn’t serve the American people. It doesn’t. Likewise, it doesn’t serve the American people when questions were asked during my tenure, like, “Is the president glad that the South lost the Civil War?” The sensational questions don’t serve the American people and the fluff questions don’t serve the American people.
And I wish that both Democrat administrations and Republican administrations got fair, probing questions on the issues of substance. There’s two spectrums. Neither are good. If the press could come right down the middle, some of the questions you hear Peter Doocy asking, for example, straight, hard-hitting questions, and I think that’s what the American people deserve.
Del Guidice: I want to ask you one more thing. Critical race theory, we’ve seen this become very rampant. When kids were home during COVID, parents saw what their students and their children were learning and are very concerned, have questions about it. What is your perspective? And I know Florida has done a lot in this regard to keep [critical race theory] out of schools, but what do you think should happen here? How should this be solved?
McEnany: Yeah, look, I think it’s terrible when you have children being taught that by virtue of the color of their skin, they are an oppressed or an oppressor. The idea that my daughter would go to school and be taught that she’s an oppressor because of the color of her skin, or one of her classmates would be taught that she is oppressed because of the color of hers, it’s horrible. It’s insidious. It’s not the American way.
I’m so proud of [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis for banning it alongside … other governors around the country. … It’s insidious, and we’ve got to stop it. And that’s why you see parents rising up, much like the tea party movement, but on the issue of critical race theory.
Del Guidice: Well, Former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, thank you for joining us again on The Daily Signal.
McEnany: Thank you. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
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