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October 6, 2020

The number of positive COVID-19 tests out of the White House are now starting to pile up. More than a dozen that President Trump has been around in the past week or so have now tested positive for COVID-19, including another notable name on Monday: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

McEnany said on Twitter, “After testing negative consistently, including every day since Thursday, I tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday morning while experiencing no symptoms.” She added she did not know of Hope Hicks’ positive coronavirus diagnosis before she held a White House press briefing last Thursday. She said she will quarantine and work remotely.

McEnany met with reporters indoors last week and then spoke with reporters on Sunday. Sunday’s quick briefing was outside, but she removed her mask to speak. And several journalists who cover the White House have tested positive.

In response, the White House Correspondents’ Association put out a statement that said, “We wish Kayleigh, the president and everyone else struggling with the virus a swift recovery. As of this moment we are not aware of additional cases among White House journalists, though we know some are awaiting test results. We strongly encourage our members to continue following CDC guidance on mask-wearing and distancing — especially when at the White House — and urge journalists to seek testing if they were potentially exposed.”

In a tweet, New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi called it a “weak ass” statement, adding, “Kayleigh McEnany directly endangered the lives of those around her, including members of the press. I expect a stronger defense of journalists from the WHCA when their safety is at risk.”

CNN’s Brian Stelter, on air, said, “I’m also hearing from White House reporters who are quite angry, who think the association should have spoken out more forcefully … and call this what it is: It’s outrageous. Look, I don’t want to kick somebody while they are down and sick, but McEnany’s behavior, her conduct was outrageous. It’s more evidence of a coverup, more evidence of denialism at the White House up until the point you start coughing and you can’t deny it anymore.”

In a stunning interview on CNN on Monday morning, New York Times White House reporter Michael D. Shear, who has tested positive for COVID-19, said he had not been contacted by anyone in the White House.

“Nobody in the White House has said ‘boo’ and asked anything about where I was or who I talked to or who else I might have infected,” Shear said. “I think that that just shows you they’re not taking it seriously, at least as it pertains to themselves.”

Shear was on Air Force One last Saturday and spoke with Trump that night. He also was at the White House earlier that day and said that was the last time he was “out and about.”

“So it’s pretty clear,” Shear said, “that somewhere along the course of that day is when I got infected.”

One White House correspondent told Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo, “People are livid. There are a lot of us, like dozens of reporters, who feel it’s unsafe to be doing it the way it’s being done. Literally half the White House has the virus they have downplayed for seven months. I mean, it’s just unnecessarily risking serious illness or death, for no reason.”

The New York Times Michael M. Grynbaum notes that there’s a sign on the door of the press briefing room at the White House that says, “Masks Required Beyond This Point. Please wear masks over both your nose and mouth at all times.”

Grynbaum also notes that the sign was not put up by the White House. It was put up by the White House correspondents.

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl told Grynbaum, “The only place on the White House grounds where a mask has been required is the White House press area, and the only people who have routinely violated that rule have been White House staff.”

This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report.

Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer. For the latest media news and analysis, delivered free to your inbox each and every weekday morning, sign up for his Poynter Report newsletter.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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