White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany got pushback after she said reporters in the briefing room Friday seemed to “desperately” want churches to stay closed. The briefing centered on President Donald Trump’s new designation that houses of worship are “essential” during the coronavirus crisis.
After being questioned about what specific provision of federal law allows Trump to override governors’ rulings on which businesses and institutions are “essential” and should be open during the pandemic, McEnany responded, “The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen, and, boy, it’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed.”
Reuters’ Jeff Mason pushed back.
“Kayleigh, I object to that. I go to church. I’m dying to go back to church,” he said. “The question that we’re asking you and would like to have asked the president and [Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx] is, ‘Is it safe?’ And if it’s not safe, is the president trying to encourage that or does the president agree with Dr. Birx that people should wait?”
Trump’s designation of houses of worship as “essential” Friday came one day after he pivoted a question about his willingness to wear a face mask, giving an answer about churches. During a Thursday White House gaggle, after Trump said he “tested positively toward negative” for the coronavirus, he was asked if he planned to wear a mask during an upcoming tour of a factory in Michigan.
“I don’t know. We’re going to look at it. A lot of people have asked me that question. I want to get our country back to normal. I want to normalize. One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open. The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors,” he replied.
Watch the moment from McEnany’s briefing above, via CNN.