White House Press Secretary Alleges Media Bias Over Quote on Reopening of Schools

July 17, 2020 Updated: July 17, 2020

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a public announcement alleged that there was “media bias” over a statement she made on reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

McEnany called the situation a “Case Study in Media Bias,” and wrote in a Twitter post that the media had “deceptively” suggested that she was making a point opposite to what she wanted to express.

In the Twitter post, McEnany shared a post from a media outlet that featured the following in the text body: “White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on school reopenings: ‘The science should not stand in the way of this,'” along with a video of a slightly longer excerpt of what McEnany said.

In the same post, McEnany pointed out that she had said another sentence: “The science is very clear on this…the science is on our side here. We encourage our localities & states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools.”

The comments were made at a press briefing McEnany held at the White House on Thursday afternoon.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Holds Press Briefing
A reporter wears a rubber glove during a press briefing with White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany at the White House in Washington, on July 16, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

McEnany was asked by a reporter about what President Donald Trump would convey to parents about what to do about children whose school districts have decided to hold online classes only.

The question comes amid announcements on Monday by Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District—California’s two largest school districts—that students will continue with remote learning because there will not be any in-person learning when the academic year begins in August.

McEnany responded that Trump has “said unmistakably that he wants schools to open … And when he says open, he means open in full—kids being able to attend each and every day at their school.”

She added, “The science should not stand in the way of this. And as Dr. Scott Atlas said—I thought this was a good quote—Of course, we can do it. Everyone else in the Western world, our peer nations are doing it. We are the outlier here.”

“The science is very clear on this, that—you know, for instance, you look at the JAMA Pediatrics study of 46 pediatric hospitals in North America that said the risk of critical illness from COVID is far less for children than that of seasonal flu,” McEnany continued.

“The science is on our side here, and we encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science, open our schools. It’s very damaging to our children: There is a lack of reporting of abuse; there’s mental depressions that are not addressed; suicidal ideations that are not addressed when students are not in school. Our schools are extremely important, they’re essential, and they must reopen,” she added, concluding her response to the question.

Los Angeles Church Offers Covid Testing, As Cases In L.A. County Continue To Spike Upwards
A boy has his temperature checked as he receives a free COVID-19 test at a St. John’s Well Child and Family Center mobile clinic set up outside Walker Temple AME Church in South Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, on July 15, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Several media outlets late Thursday reported McEnany’s quote, “the science should not stand in the way of this,” as part of their headlines. Some outlets in the article body characterized the latter part of her quote, “the science is very clear on this … the science is on our side here,” as an immediate about-face move following the initial quote.

McEnany was citing a study published in May in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The study noted that as of April 28, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted just 8 deaths in children 14 years or younger that is related to COVID-19, compared to 169 influenza-related deaths in children of the same ages during the 2019-2020 seasons, with 81 of such deaths having occurred in 2020.

“Thus, up to this time of the pandemic in North America, children continue to face a far greater risk of critical illness from influenza than from COVID-19, pointing to the imperative for ongoing preventive pediatric health maintenance during this time,” the study authors stated. They noted that there were limitations to the study, however, including the idea that “hospitalized severely ill children during this sampling period may not have been tested for lack of suspicion of the disease, testing capability, or both.”

In March, due to COVID-19 fears, 75 million students were sent out of classrooms and onto computers to resume learning from home. Teachers and administrators scrambled to find the best way to teach online and provide as much support as possible from afar.

Sierra Vista Orange County School
An aerial view of Sierra Vista Middle School in Irvine, Calif., on July 13, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Most schools in the United States remain closed for in-person learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for schools across the nation to reopen for in-person learning, and earlier this month said that the administration may withhold funding to schools that don’t open.

“Germany, Norway, so many countries right now, they’re open,” Trump said at an event at the White House on July 10. “The schools are open and they’re doing just fine, and they’re opening in the fall. So we have to get our schools open. Denmark, Sweden. We have to get our schools open.”

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, on July 9, 2020. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

There have been concerns over the possibility that children could still spread the illness to older teachers and school employees, as well as carry the illness home to older relatives.

“How do I keep my 55-year-old teacher from getting sick, who has diabetes and maybe some underlying health problems and they’re not discussing that and that’s what they need to discuss now,” Pat Gardner, president of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association, told WUSF.

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation said that children “could present a risk to others in their household, especially in households with people at higher risk, such as older adults and others with pre-existing conditions,” and that 3.3 million seniors—that is, 6 percent of people age 65 or older—live with school-age children. The CDC states that older adults are at higher risk of more serious complications from COVID-19.

A previous analysis by the same foundation said that one in four teachers are at risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract COVID-19.

The KFF’s latest report did note, however, that children are at a “lower risk of infection, present with milder symptoms, and are much less likely to die from the infection compared to older adults.”

Recent studies from Australia and the Netherlands suggest that school-aged children have a minor role in transmitting the virus.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, a group of 67​,000 pediatricians, have said that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic or infected. The group added that this age group haven’t been significantly affected by COVID-19, and are also less likely to spread infection.

In a recent policy statement, the AAP said that it “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

“The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020,” the group said.

Zachary Stieber and Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.

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