Politics

Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two deputies test positive for coronavirus

Key Points
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two of her deputies have tested positive for the coronavirus as President Donald Trump remains hospitalized with the virus, and as first lady Melania Trump remains in isolation with Covid-19.
  • McEnany gave a briefing to reporters at the White House on Thursday, hours before Trump advisor Hope Hicks was revealed to have tested positive.
  • Others connected to Trump and White House who have tested positive include campaign manager Bill Stepien, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, advisor Kellyanne Conway, Chris Christie, and Sens. Mike Lee, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson.
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Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tests positive for Covid-19

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two of her deputies have tested positive for the coronavirus as President Donald Trump remains hospitalized with the virus.

McEnany and her two deputies, Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, are among at least 18 people people in the White House, or connected to Trump's reelection campaign or to recent White House events, who have tested positive for Covid-19 since late last week.

"After testing negative consistently, including every day since Thursday, I tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday morning while experiencing no symptoms,"  McEnany said on Twitter.

"No reporters, producers, or members of the press are listed as close contacts by the White House Medical Unit."

It was not clear when Gilmartin, who is principal assistant press secretary, and Leavitt, who is assistant press secretary, tested positives for Covid-19. Their diagnoses, which were confirmed by NBC News with two sources familiar with their situation, were made public only after McEnany disclosed her diagnois on Twitter.

The other people connected to Trump and recent White House events who have tested positive since Thursday include Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, three Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Wisconsin's Ron Johnson, as well as Nick Luna, the president's personal assistant. University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins also tested positive, after attending a White House event announcing Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

In addition, at least three journalists who were at the White House over the past week have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the White House Correspondents Association.

Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, left, and Chad Gilmartin, principal assistant White House press secretary, arrive to a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Thursday, July 16, 2020.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

McEnany, who is married and gave birth to a daughter last November, briefed reporters at the White House on Thursday, hours before Trump's advisor Hope Hicks was revealed to have tested positive.

Trump announced his diagnosis and that of his wife, first lady Melania Trump, shortly after Hicks' diagnosis became public.

"I definitely had no knowledge of Hope Hicks' diagnosis prior to holding a White House press briefing on Thursday," McEnany tweeted Monday.

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Trump returns to the White House as he continues coronavirus treatment

"As an essential worker, I have worked diligently to provide needed information to the American People at this time," she wrote.

"With my recent positive test, I will begin the quarantine process and will continue working on behalf of the American People remotely."

In February, McEnany, during an appearance on Fox News that preceded her appointment as press secretary, said that under Trump's leadership "We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism come here, and isn't that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President [Barack] Obama?"

When her comments to Fox News resurfaced after her appointment, McEnany on Twitter accused  a reporter who had tweeted her interview of "ridiculous spin," and added, "I was asked about travel restrictions & stated the intent of those restrictions: 'We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. ' " 

"President Trump works to defeat the invisible enemy while you mislead the nation!" McEnany wrote on a post aimed at that reporter.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Monday, "Contact tracing will certainly be done from Kayleigh McEnany's case, consistent with CDC [federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, and appropriate recommendations will be made."

In White House circles, McEnany has become a symbol of how closely held the early diagnoses of Covid-19 were among high-ranking officials.

While Hicks tested positive for the coronavirus early Thursday, McEnany was not immediately informed of the diagnosis, nor that she herself had been exposed to the virus, until Thursday evening, when press reports began to emerge about Hicks.

A senior White House official told NBC News that McEnany was pulled from the group accompanying Trump to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday but was not told why.

The official said McEnany did not learn until later that afternoon that Hicks had tested positive that day.

In the hours between Hicks' positive test and when McEnany learned of it, she briefed the press in the White House briefing room while not wearing a mask.

Melania Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, who preceded McEnany as White House press secretary, declined to comment on McEnany's disclosure.

McEnany told reporters on Saturday that she had tested negative, and she was seen wearing a mask on White House grounds on Friday when the president was moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

But on Sunday, she removed her mask in order to tape an appearance on Fox News. She removed it again moments afterward to speak to reporters on the White House North Lawn.

As of Sunday night, the White House had not reached out to any of the three infected correspondents to conduct contact tracing.

Ben Williamson, senior communications advisor at the White House, tweeted Monday about McEnany's lack of a mask: "For those asking about this: @PressSec briefly removed her mask at the mic to answer questions, was there for two questions and only 58 seconds."

White House Correspondents' Association President Zeke Miller said in a statement, "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," said Miller, an Associated Press reporter. "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."

- Additional reporting by CNBC's Kevin Breuninger

Editor's note: This story was updated to note that at least 18 people connected to the White House have tested positive for Covid-19 recently.