In a heated interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Wednesday night, Trump 2020 campaign secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended President Donald Trump’s statements regarding Puerto Rico, including his invented claim that the island received over $91 billion in relief funds after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
As the interview spiraled, McEnany claimed that Trump never lies, prompting Cuomo to bring the interview to a close.
Cuomo opened by asking about Trump’s decision to attack Puerto Rico throughout the week when it seemed like Hurricane Dorian was heading straight for the island. In one tweet, Trump called it “one of the most corrupt places on earth.”
McEnany insisted that the president is “fighting for the people of Puerto Rico by calling out the corrupt politicians” and claimed that “there were misused funds last time.
But, Cuomo pointed out, Trump fought tooth and nail to block, cut, and stall passing relief funds for Puerto Rico. Trump has also repeatedly lied that the island has received at least $91 billion (or $92 billion per Trump’s latest claim this week), when less than half of that has been allocated, and far less actually spent.
McEnany defended the imaginary number as coming from the “estimated projections of what will be provided to Puerto Rico over time.” Ignoring the lies Trump has told about Puerto Rico relief and his opposition to it, she insisted that “this was the largest FEMA operation in the history of this country.”
Throughout the interview, which touched on a variety of issues beyond Puerto Rico, McEnany defended the president’s record and echoed his attacks on the press. “The president is lied about constantly,” she said, attacking CNN for being “fake news.” When Cuomo noted that Trump is responsible for creating his own negative coverage, McEnany claimed, “He doesn’t lie; the press lies.”
Cuomo was taken aback by the claim that Trump doesn’t lie, and pressed McEnany further on it. “No, I don’t believe the president has lied,” she confirmed. At that point, Cuomo brought the interview to a close.
Before segueing, Cuomo spoke directly to his audience. “You can’t say that this president doesn’t lie to you guys, alright?” he said. “You can argue why he lies, you can argue how you feel about his lies, but if you can’t even admit that, the conversation is dead. I’m sorry, but it is.”
The interview happened the same day the Washington Post ran a feature on Trump’s new press secretary and communications director, Stephanie Grisham, in which she claimed that she doesn’t think Trump ever lies.
“I don’t think they’re lies,” she said. “I think the president communicates in a way that some people, especially the media, aren’t necessarily comfortable with. A lot of times they take him so literally. I know people will roll their eyes if I say he was just kidding or was speaking in hypotheticals, but sometimes he is. What I’ve learned about him is that he loves this country and he’s not going to lie to this country.”
According to the Post’s count, Trump has made over 12,000 statements that were false or misleading since taking office. He averages about 20 such statements every day.