President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be issuing guidance for reopening group religious ceremonies. He followed up the announcement by calling on all governors to reopen churches, synagogues, and mosques immediately.
With large in-person gatherings one of the largest culprits for the spread of the virus that's upended daily life in the United States and killed over 95 thousand Americans, people inevitably wondered if it was safe for congregations to reconvene.
That's the question reporters asked the latest White House press secretary Kayleigh Mcenany, and her response led to a tense exchange.
Kayleigh McEnany: "Boy it's interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these houses of worsh… https://t.co/NniIsZkvBE— The Hill (@The Hill) 1590172560.0
After reporters pressed McEnany on whether reopening churches was safe, she said:
"Boy it's interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these houses of worship & churches stay closed."
That's when Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason responded:
"Kayleigh, I object to that. I go to church. I'm dying to go back to church. The question that we're asking you—and would like to have asked the President and Dr. Birx—is is it safe? And if it's not safe, is the President trying to encourage that or does the President agree with Dr. Birx that people should wait?"
McEnany assured that it was safe for churches to reopen if they follow the CDC guidelines. She then expressed gratitude that "we have a President that celebrates the first amendment."
People thought McEnany's insinuation that reporters wanted to see churches closed was made in bad faith.
This is such a hideous and inappropriate thing to say. And just wrong. Many journalists are people of faith. It’s a… https://t.co/wZC1VHd8Zm— Jake Tapper (@Jake Tapper) 1590175083.0
She’s trying to have a culture war to distract from this administrations incompetence when it comes to handling the… https://t.co/Y1TATo0MrR— Molly Jong-Fast🏡 (@Molly Jong-Fast🏡) 1590177903.0
Despicable behavior from @PressSec. https://t.co/78s5ryYWXA— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivia Nuzzi) 1590178267.0
People need to recognize Trump is creating a situation here where he’s willing to sacrifice his evangelical support… https://t.co/2fCuT3WsFR— Jared Yates Sexton (@Jared Yates Sexton) 1590187563.0
I found these comments from @PressSec false, at minimum. Plenty of journalists are people of faith. I am one, and… https://t.co/pPgnAoVwzx— Dan Lamothe (@Dan Lamothe) 1590179793.0
People commended Jeff Mason for calling out the rhetoric.
Way to go @jeffmason1 ... making your country, your church and your family proud! #WeAreInThisTogether https://t.co/qT7Crunw9N— Susan Russell (@Susan Russell) 1590184509.0
This is one of the more frustrating misconceptions about journalists. A number of reporters I know are active in ou… https://t.co/C5ebm6kxXT— Melissa Davlin (@Melissa Davlin) 1590178329.0
We need more reporters like Jeff. https://t.co/4mk9DGD04D— sharon north east (@sharon north east) 1590184602.0
Three hours before Trump's announcement, the CDC released a report documenting the infection rate and subsequent deaths from a single church service in Arkansas.