White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany once denounced Trump's remarks as racist and "hateful"

The White House staffer also formerly denounced the president for being "a Republican in name only"

By Matthew Rozsa
May 8, 2020 5:00PM (UTC)
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President Donald Trump and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany (AP Photo/Evan Vucci/Alex Brandon)

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany formerly denounced President Donald Trump for being "a Republican in name only" who made "racist" and "hateful" comments about minorities during the early stages of his 2016 presidential campaign.

McEnany spoke out when Trump used his June 2015 campaign announcement address to accuse Mexico of sending "rapists" who bring drugs and crime along with them into the U.S. Those comments were newly unearthed by CNN's KFile.


"A racist statement is a racist statement," she said at the time. "I don't like what Donald Trump said."

McEnany later compared Trump's rhetoric to remarks the Rev. Al Sharpton made about Jewish people in the 1990s, claiming that the future president was "not within the mainstream of the candidates" and that his rhetoric was "equally hateful" as Sharpton's, as well as "derogatory."

The future White House press secretary told Fox Business' "Kennedy" the same month that Trump did not deserve to be polling second place in the New Hampshire primary.


"The GOP doesn't need to be turning away voters and isolating them," she said. "We need to be bringing them into the tent. Donald Trump is the last person who's going to do that."

McEnany told CNN around the same time that Trump's comments about immigration were "very unartful" and "very inappropriate." She told the network a few days that Trump was "a Republican in name only" and "not a true Republican candidate." Because of his previous support for Democratic candidates and policies, she argued that he was "inauthentic."

By July 2015, however, McEnany began to defend Trump, claiming that comedian Amy Schumer's jokes about Latino men being rapists were worse than Trump's racist remarks. In October of that year, she claimed that Trump's musings about Mexico were not an "absurd thought" and that he was benefiting "because people are tired of this politically correct culture where you have to say everything perfectly correct or else you are going to offend an entire segment of society."


Trump has made numerous racist comments about Hispanics in recent years. In June 2016, he attacked federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was then presiding over two class-action lawsuits against Trump University, by claiming that Curiel had "an absolute conflict" of interest since he was building a wall and the judge was "of Mexican heritage." 

During a political event in September, Trump asked CNN contributor Steve Cortes, "Who do you like more: the country or the Hispanics?" After Cortes responded "country," Trump said: "I don't know. I may have to go for the Hispanics, to be honest with you. We got a lot of Hispanics."


McEnany has had at least one bump in her brief tenure as Trump's new press secretary. The president undercut her last month after she defended a comment in which he seemed to suggest that injecting disinfectants could cure COVID-19. She said that "President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday's briefing." But Trump later told reporters that "I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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