Kayleigh McEnany, Donald Trump’s final White House press secretary, is “a liar and an opportunist”, according to testimony to the House January 6 committee by Alyssa Farah Griffin, formerly communications director to Trump.
In testimony released on Thursday, Griffin was asked where McEnany “fell” after the 2020 election, “either, ‘Hey, we lost, let’s gracefully exit’ versus ‘let’s facilitate the big lie’” that Trump’s defeat by Joe Biden was caused by electoral fraud.
“I am a Christian woman,” Griffin said, “so I will say this. Kayleigh is a liar and an opportunist.”
McEnany, who became a Fox News host after leaving the White House, did not immediately respond.
Griffin now works for ABC. She also said McEnany was “a smart woman” and “not an idiot”.
“She knew we lost the election, but she made a calculation that she wanted to have a certain life post-Trump that required staying in his good graces. And that was more important to her than telling the truth to the American public.”
McEnany has often addressed the issue of whether she lied while working for Trump.
When she first stood behind the White House podium in May 2020, she promised to tell the truth to the American press.
A reporter asked: “Will you pledge to never lie to us from that podium?”
McEnany replied: “I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.”
She has repeated the claim, saying in June 2021 she “never lied” as press secretary.
McEnany also released a highly selective memoir, For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey Through the White House and Beyond. The book repeats the claim she never lied to reporters, in part because her education at “Oxford, Harvard and Georgetown” meant she always relied on “truthful, well-sourced, well-researched information”.
McEnany also spoke to the January 6 committee. In its report issued last week, it said “a segment” of her testimony “seemed evasive”.
“In multiple instances, McEnany’s testimony did not seem nearly as forthright as that of her press office staff, who testified about what McEnany said.”
The committee also noted that though McEnany “disputed suggestions that President Trump was resistant to condemning the violence and urging the crowd at the Capitol to act peacefully when they crafted his tweet at 2.38pm on January 6 … one of her deputies, Sarah Matthews, told the select committee that McEnany informed her otherwise.”
Griffin, who left the White House in December 2020, told the committee she did not confront McEnany while both worked for Trump, adding that she “got her Fox News gig. It worked out precisely how she’d always planned for it to, but she knew better”.
Griffin also described the chaotic workings of the Trump White House, which she called “the flattest organisation I’ve ever worked in”, meaning the one with least distance between staff at the top and bottom.
She said Mark Meadows, Trump’s final chief of staff meant to control access to the president, was a “true believer” to the end.
Griffin told the committee: “I would see press assistants in, like, the president’s personal dining room and not know how they got there … a press assistant being a very junior staffer.”
Accounts of senior staffers’ attempts to control access to Trump are legion.
According to a book by Stephanie Grisham – McEnany’s predecessor as press secretary and a longtime aide to the first lady, Melania Trump – one press aide in particular caught Trump’s attention.
Grisham wrote: “I began to notice that he was taking an unusual interest in a young, highly attractive press wrangler on my team … What I do know is that he behaved inappropriately. And, since the woman worked for me, I tried to protect her and keep his unusual interest in her under wraps.”
According to Grisham, Trump told one of her deputies to bring the woman up to the office cabin on Air Force One, so he could “look at her ass”.
Grisham said she came close to telling Melania Trump about such behaviour but was “not alleging that anything happened between the president and that woman”.
“It would have been pretty hard for him to pull that off even if he wanted to,” she said.