White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany fired back at CNN’s Jim Acosta after he said the White House had “pummeled protesters” for a photo-op.
Acosta addressed McEnany during Wednesday’s press briefing amid continued protests in major cities nationwide. (RELATED: ‘Journalists Are Not Above Being Questioned’: Kayleigh McEnany Fires Back At Chris Wallace)
Acosta began by invoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying that he would likely not have approved of the officers who had cleared protesters from Lafayette Square prior to President Donald Trump’s walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“If the White House, the president and his team had to do it all over again, would you have gassed and pummeled protesters to clear the park so the president could have a photo-op?” Acosta asked.
McEnany pushed back immediately, stating that no one had used either tear gas or rubber bullets.
“Chemical agents were used,” Acosta insisted, adding that “others say they were tear gassed in that area.”
“No one was tear gassed. That’s been confirmed by DOD and Park Services as well. So let me go back and address what happened. There’s been a lot of misreporting,” McEnany replied. She went on to say that Attorney General William Barr had made the decision much earlier in the day to widen the perimeter around the White House by one block on each side.
McEnany continued, saying Barr had told officers to move the perimeter after he arrived at the White House and realized that it had not yet been done.
“The protesters were told three times over loud speaker that they needed to move,” McEnany continued. “There were projectiles being thrown at officers, frozen water bottles were being thrown at officers, various other projectiles. The officers had no other choice in that moment [but] to act, and make sure that they were safe … It’s absolutely uncalled-for to throw bricks, absolutely uncalled-for to throw water bottles that are frozen at police officers.”
“Don’t you agree, Kayleigh, the vast majority of those protesters were doing so peacefully and that many of them did not hear those warnings and were simply just pushed out of the way, just forced — pummeled out of the way by their fellow Americans, police officers? You sent in members of the military to deal with this,” Acosta said. “What do you say to Americans that look at what happened on Monday and find that to be appalling?”
McEnany responded by saying that, while the National Guard had been used, the U.S. military had not. “They had also received intelligence that there were calls for violence against police officers,” she added.
“Would you do it again?” Acosta asked.
“To protect the lives of officers? The officers have a right to defend and protect themselves,” McEnany replied before trying to move away from the question.
“What do you say to Americans who are just outraged by what they saw?” he asked. “To have a photo-op in front of a church…”
McEnany responded by listing some of the police officers who had been attacked during the riots.
“Let’s go through some of the things that happened when officers don’t defend and protect themselves. In St. Louis, four police officers were shot. In Las Vegas, an officer was shot in the head and is on life support. In New York, a cop was beat up by people. In Providence, four to five police officers and state troopers were injured. In Asbury Park, New Jersey, a police officer was injured,” McEnany said. “Police officers are out on the front lines. They’re defending and protecting you as you come into this building each and every day, Jim. We owe them honor, we owe them respect. When they’re under attack, they have the ability to defend themselves.”