EXCLUSIVE – ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl irked White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany over the weekend by falsely claiming that the White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. The ABC News reporter was then accused of “editorializing” the response when he finally noticed it had been sitting in his email all along.
It all started when the repulsive phrase “Hang Mike Pence” was trending on social media and the ABC News reporter wanted to know if President Trump condemned the threats against the vice president.
Deputy press secretary Judd Deere told Fox News that the White House communications team received Karl’s email and huddled to determine the appropriate response. The statement, “We strongly condemn all calls to violence, including those against any member of this administration,” was crafted by McEnany’s team and Deere sent it to Karl via email at 5:55 p.m. EST.
However, Karl sent a tweet at 6:38 p.m. EST which falsely claimed that nobody from the White House bothered to respond.
“I have asked @PressSec and her deputies if the president has any comment on the ‘Hang Pence’ threats coming from Trump’s supporters. No answer to repeated inquiries. Does the President condemn these threats? No response from the White House. None,” Karl tweeted.
The White House communications team then huddled to determine how to combat Karl’s inaccurate tweet.
“Kayleigh asked me if I was comfortable with her tweeting out a copy of the email that indicated the time stamp, as well as the response, basically quote-tweeting Jonathan and… calling him out for not reporting accurately,” Deere told Fox News. “I told her that was fine.”
McEnany then tweeted her evidence that Karl’s tweet was inaccurate.
“The White House sent @jonkarl a response condemning all violence at 5:55pm, yet he irresponsibly tweeted at 6:38pm that we did not respond. Jon, check your inbox before you tweet,” McEnany wrote to accompany a screenshot of Deere’s email.
Fox News has not seen the email other than what was publicly tweeted by McEnany.
Karl did not delete the tweet, and asked again on Monday for a more specific response.
“Hey @PressSec — Any response to this yet? Does the President condemn the chance of “Hang Pence” coming from his supporters?” Karl wrote, after including a screenshot showing Deere’s response in his junk email folder.
Deere, who said he communicates with Karl on a regular basis, was left baffled by the claim that his email landed in the ABC News reporter’s “junk” folder.
“I would be very surprised to know that I would end up in Jonathan’s junk folder, and the reason why is because Jonathan used to be the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, and dating back to when Sarah Sanders was the press secretary, through Stephanie Grisham and through Kayleigh, I have handled press operations and press logistics for this White House,” Deere said. “Jonathan and I used to email, if not talk on the phone, multiple times a week when he was head of the association.”
As for Karl’s response that emphasized a “deputy” sent the statement and asked, again, if Trump condemned calls for violence – Deere feels some members of the press don’t understand the role of a spokesperson.
“This goes to the point that I’ve noticed with some reporters,” Deere said. “Sometimes I will be asked to respond to something and I will respond to it and reporters will say, ‘Why hasn’t the president said anything?,’ or, ‘Is the president going to say anything about this?’’
Deere said one of his roles as a White House spokesperson is to speak on Trump’s behalf.
“If I’m not speaking on his behalf then what is the point of my job? What is the point of having a spokesperson if the point of that person is not to speak on the president’s behalf? I’m not saying the president isn’t going to weigh in on it at some point, but to then follow up to my response with, ‘But Is the president going to weigh in?’ like my response is moot unless he does is quite frustrating and I dealt with that the entire time I’ve been [at the White House],” Deere said.
“Reporters can ask questions and I respond to those questions. Sometimes it is not the answer that they want but, to me, that doesn’t give the reporter the opportunity to then ridicule my response. His job is to report the fact, I guess he can note that I didn’t mention the vice president but my response to that is, I mentioned the administration broadly and Mike Pence is certainly a member of this administration as the vice president,” Deere said.
“He’s editorializing my response and adding his own opinion of it, which he might claim is factual, but you can’t say my response doesn’t include Mike Pence because Mike Pence is a member of this administration.”
ABC News declined to comment.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.