Update: Headline updated to make it clear the reporter did not say what she was accused of saying.
Al Jazeera English White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett responded to an internet meme on Tuesday claiming she called White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany a “lying b****” during Tuesday’s briefing.
The clipped audio of Halkett went viral on Tuesday, some claiming Halkett hurled the nasty words at McEnany after the press secretary moved on from the reporter. But Halkett clarified that she said to McEnany, “okay, you don’t want to engage,” not “lying b****.”
Moreover, according to the official White House transcript of the briefing, Hallkett is recorded saying, “okay, you don’t want to engage.”
Benny Johnson was one of the media personalities to question, “Did a reporter call @PressSec a ‘Lying b*tch’ on national TV during a White House Press Briefing?”
Did a reporter call @PressSec a “Lying b*tch” on national TV during a White House Press Briefing?
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 21, 2020
Halkett was tagged in a post and asked by Breitbart reporter Charlie Spiering about the comment: “Question for [Kimberly Halkett] – Did you really say ‘Okay, you’re a lying b****’ about [Press Secretary]?”
The reporter replied, “Thanks for asking [Charlie Spiering] … there’s a lot of misreporting out there about that briefing. The answer to your question is, I DID NOT.”
“What I said was, ‘OKAY, YOU DON’T WANT TO ENGAGE,'” Halkett emphasized.
Thanks for asking @charliespiering … there's a lot of misreporting out there about that briefing. The answer to your question is, I DID NOT. What I said was, "OKAY, YOU DON'T WANT TO ENGAGE." https://t.co/xmu5YR7gXr
— Kimberly Halkett (@KimberlyHalkett) July 21, 2020
Below is partial transcript of the interaction per the White House (emphasis added):
Q Kayleigh, I have a couple of questions. The first one is: The President, in the last few hours, tweeted about the concerns about mail-in voting. So he’s obviously concerned about the integrity of the U.S. election and certainly internal sabotage. But why are we not hearing from the President about fears about external sabotage?
For example, coming out of the UK today, there is a Parliamentary Committee report that says that Russia influenced the Scottish referendum; there are questions about Brexit. But we’ve really not heard the President put the Kremlin on notice with respect to the U.S. election. Will we hear from him today on that?
MS. MCENANY: The President today has put the world on notice that our election systems must be secure. This is — under this President, in 2018, he articulated the first full cyber strategy for the United States since 2003. In 2019, he extended the National Emergency Declaration on Foreign Election Interference. He routinely engages with Congress on election security, particularly in at least 26 —
Q Right. But we had fresh reports.
MS. MCENANY: — elections, security-specific hearings. He signed legislation — $71 million — and so on and so forth. And that’s quite a contrast to the O Biden [sic] — the Obama-Biden administration, who when told of meddling in 2016, did nothing. And, in fact, Susan Rice told the White House cyber team to stand down and, quote, “knock it off” when they floated — when they floated options to combat Russian cyberattacks. And even Obama’s cyber chief, Michael Daniel, has confirmed the stand-down order.
Q The President has been in office now more than three years. I’m asking what has been done now. And given these fresh concerns, when are we going to hear from the President on that?
MS. MCENANY: So what’s been done now — I just listed off three or four things for you, and I’m happy to go through more. We can talk about the $71 million —
Q You know, actually, I have follow-up question with respect to Russia.
MS. MCENANY: — in legislation on election security. We can talk about the $15 million for election reform activities. We can talk about legislation making more than $805 million available to states. And —
Q So, Joe Biden put the Kremlin and others on notice.
MS. MCENANY: And when it comes to mail-in voting, I would point you to the fact that there’s a Wall Street Journal article just out today, and it talks about the dark omen for November and the absolute catastrophe in New York City that we are a month into the election after the voting, and we still don’t know who the winners are of some of those races.
And Governor Cuomo decided that he would pre-pay postage for the ballots. And what that meant was that the Post Office didn’t put a postage stamp noting the date of the ballots. So as they’re collecting these ballots in — for a month —
Q I think this is getting off track. Let’s —
MS. MCENANY: You asked me about this, so I’m going to answer. So, for a month, they’ve collecting ballots with no postmark date. And, in fact, what they found is 19 percent of ballots have been rejected in Queens, 28 percent rejected in Brooklyn.
There are questions about mail — mass mail-out [sic] voting.
Q Yeah, that’s one of (inaudible). I’m asking about foreign interference.
MS. MCENANY: And I know you don’t want to hear them, which is why you talk over me.
MS. MCENANY: But I encourage you to read the op-ed.
Q Okay, let me just redirect on the China vaccine research. Russia has interfered —
MS. MCENANY: Yes, you’ve gotten two questions, which is more than some of your colleagues.
Q Okay, you don’t want to engage.
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