McEnany tells "Fox Friends" that COVID-19 restrictions are "Orwellian" as pandemic surges across US

"We don't lose our freedom in this country," McEnany tells hosts of Trump's favorite morning show "Fox & Friends"

By Roger Sollenberger
Published November 19, 2020 2:14AM (EST)
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Monday, July 06, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Monday, July 06, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Describing new coronavirus restrictions put in place by governors as "Orwellian" and against "the American way," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany lashed out at blue states during her latest "Fox & Friends."

McEnany's comments, made in her official White House capacity, came amid dire warnings from within the administration about the current record-setting resurgence of infections. The White House coronavirus task force alerted Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday that the U.S. could see 2,000 deaths a day if states do not impose new restrictions, according to CBS News.

"Fox & Friends" co-host Steve Doocy asked McEnany on Wednesday about the restrictions as families across the country weigh whether to cancel holiday gatherings amid a surge of COVID-19 cases.

"There a number of governors who are suggesting, look, that you don't need to be in a big group, particularly of people that are outside your bubble," Doocy said. "What do you think of these suggestions and guideline some of the governors have given in advance of this? Because it is a super contagious disease."

"Yeah, I think a lot of the guidelines you're seeing are Orwellian," McEnany began, before advocating for federal guidelines. "Let me start by saying the CDC has put out considerations as we prepare to go about Thanksgiving — about socially distancing, wearing masks, doing what you can. There's a whole list of pages of very good considerations, and in that they say they aren't recommending a certain number of people. But they are giving considerations that you should put in place, and I think that's the American way."

The holiday guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not put a cap on gatherings. The federal agency recommends that individuals base crowd size on the ability for individuals from different households to stay 6 feet apart.

But the guidance does explicitly direct Americans to follow all safety laws, rules and regulations in place in their area — regulations which McEnany again characterized as "Orwellian."

"The American people know how to protect their health," she said. "We've dealt with COVID for many months. But it's Orwellian in a place like Oregon to say, 'If you gather in numbers more than six, we might come to your house and arrest you.' And you get 30 days of jail time? That's not the American way, and we don't lose our freedom in this country. We make responsible health decisions as individuals."

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, on Friday warned that she had no choice but to enforce her order capping social gatherings at six people from two different households. Penalties for violations include jail time of up to 30 days, fines of up to $1,250 or both.

"For the last eight months, I have been asking Oregonians to follow the letter and the spirit of the law, and we have not chosen to engage law enforcement," Brown said Friday, adding that she had directed law enforcement to apply the penalties.

"At this point in time, unfortunately, we have no other option," she concluded. 

The U.S. has passed 247,000 reported COVID-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In May, White House task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx projected that the country would see a maximum of 240,000 deaths.

"Our projections have always been between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives lost," Birx told MSNBC host Chris Matthews. "And that's with full mitigation and us learning from each other of how to social distance."

On "Fox & Friends," McEnany skirted another legal question: whether President Donald Trump would commit to a peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden.

"If the president doesn't win . . . what happens with the transfer of power?" co-host Ainsley Earhart asked. "Will it be peaceful?"

McEnany did not entirely rule out the possibility. 

"This president has always said he will engage in a peaceful transfer of power if the facts bear out that way," the senior White House responded. 

However, McEnany, who recently appeared on multiple Fox News shows in her political capacity as a Trump campaign adviser, left open the possibility that a peaceful transfer of power might not happen.

"The president believes — so, too, do many others — that if every legal vote is counted, then he will remain president," she said. "He's pursuing litigation, but this president always wants what's in the best interest of our country."

You can watch the clip below via Twitter:

Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger is a staff writer at Salon. Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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