What she said?

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There's a bit of fuss on Twitter about what reporter Kimberley Halkett said when the press secretary Kaleigh McEnany cut off her follow-up question at yesterday's White House briefing (overall video here, official White House transcript here).

Here's the audio for the contested exchange, ending with Halkett's comment (taken from the Fox News recording).

And here's the relevant section of the White House transcript, which has some of the material out of order (common when people are talking over each other):

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.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh.

Just the audio of Halkett's remarkL

Here's the video queued up to the start of the first audio clip above:

From the twitter thread, someone who makes the relevant point about expectations and perceptions:


  1. Philip Taylor said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 5:50 am

    All I hear in that one second clip is (simple transcription, not worth using IPA) "Think [sic] you Kelly // I think on my own't". I am not at all sure whether "own't" is the work of one speaker or two, but I very much suspect two.

  2. Bloix said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 6:39 am

    This is the usual projection/misdirection intended to create a false both-sides-do-it narrative to deflect attention from Ted Yoho's "fucking bitch" comment.

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 6:57 am

    Totally confused, Bloix. Where does Ted Yoho (and presumably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) come into this ? Were either or both present, or are these two separate and unrelated incidents which you nonetheless believe are connected in some way ?

  4. KeithB said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 8:26 am

    I don't see why you should be confused. Bloix is saying that the right is playing this up so they have a "See, the left does it too!" nullification of Yoho's remarks.

    I am not so sure that Bloix' characterization is the case, but that is certainly what he is saying.

  5. S Frankel said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 8:33 am

    @Philip Taylor – This seems clear to me, at least. Of course the incidents are unrelated. If I want to deflect attention from my stealing your wallet, I will point to the policeman handing out a traffic ticket down the road, but the wallet and the policeman are not related.

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 8:40 am

    "Confused", Keith/SF/Bloix, because as a Briton I have almost zero awareness of the incidents or any of the protagonists, and would have even less idea whether each of the latter was left, right, centre or orthogonal to all. So what might seem obvious to an American reader can be anything but to a Briton.

  7. Bloix said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 8:50 am

    A Republican lawmaker calls a colleague a bitch? Time to gin up a fake story about a reporter calling a administration official a bitch. Then guess which "bitch" story gets play on right-wing media and which one is ignored? After a couple of days, everyone has heard a "bitch" story but half the country has heard only the fake one.

    Tucker Carlson:
    "So, did she swear the White House press secretary? We don't know. I could kind of see both sides of that. The point is, a lot of people assumed that she did because we're living in a moment where it's entirely conceivable that a White House reporter might do that. Why would a White House reporter do that? Because creating a moment like that, almost tailor-made for social media, can transform an unknown blogger into a Twitter star in just a few minutes."

    Sean Hannity:
    "At one point it sounded like a reporter calling, well yes, the press secretary "a lying" and then the b-word. Others heard the reporter say she didn't want to engage. Okay. I literally did my own poll of my staff. They say it's 50/50. So I give the benefit of the doubt. Remember, this show is the show that doesn't rush to judgment. We believe in due process. We stand strongly against boycotts that silence voices that we disagree with. We never call for anybody's firing. We let people decide."

    What do they mean, they don't know? The OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE TRANSCRIPT – which they choose to ignore – shows she didn't say it. I swear, these people could give Mark Antony rhetoric lessons.

    Oh, and neither one of them even mentioned Yoho's slur on their shows. No "let people decide" there. Just crickets.

  8. Rose Eneri said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 9:47 am

    I listened with headphones and I cannot hear what the reporter said AT ALL. As far as the WH transcript, I can only assume someone actually present was able to ascertain what the reporter said.

    Any speculation that the reporter called the WH Press Sec a "lying bitch" doesn't even make contextual sense. Immediately prior, the PS pointed out to the reporter that she had had 2 questions already, when other reporters had not even had one. I did not listen to the whole press conference, but I assume the PS's comment was factually true. In which case why, at that point, would the reporter call the PS a liar?

    IMHO, whatever the reporter's comment was, it reflected poor sportsmanship. There's limited time and everybody should get a chance to speak. Editorializing by reporters during a press conference is just a way of drawing attention to one's self. I'm no journalist, but I thought NOT injecting one's self into the story is first day Journalism school.

  9. Robot Therapist said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 10:56 am

    I'm still hearing "Yanny"

  10. Andrew Usher said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 7:16 pm

    I, too, would deem that section of the recording unintelligible, and so transcribe it. I can't hear either word clearly, no matter how many times I replay it. I don't know how the official transcript is compiled, and no one else here has said that they do, either.

    Bloix's rhetoric is repugnant and over-the-top and I urge everyone to ignore it. This really does have nothing to do with the alleged other incident.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo dot com

  11. Stephen said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 8:01 pm

    I, on the other hand, think that Bloix is spot on, and I would strongly urge people not to ignore what s/he is saying.

  12. D.O. said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 8:11 pm

    I think that accusations of Prof. Liberman in both-side-ism are wrong. He pointed out an interesting linguistic feature, something that this blog is largely about. No need to impute political motives.

    I think, though, that Bloix response is not "repugnant". It's ok to have a political comment once in a while. Especially because there was a question of "rhetoric".

    British readers of this blog can remember "stupid woman" kerfuffle of yesteryear.

  13. Anna said,

    July 23, 2020 @ 4:22 am

    I hear "*** don't want to engage" (*** = unclear). It might also be a number of other utterances (e.g. "something down my edge") that don't make sense, so the official transcript version seems the most likely. I definitely can't bring myself to hear "lying bitch".
    But I also hear something that isn't in the transcript. It is as if the other "Q" who says "Thank you Kayleigh" went on to say something else in unison with "engage", which together might produce the effect of hearing "bitch" for some listeners. Is it just me? The voices of the two "Q"s are similar.
    Is there a way to technically separate simultaneous speakers in a recording?

  14. Terror Incognita said,

    July 23, 2020 @ 9:15 am

    It's very clearly "Okay you don't wanna engage." to me – I added a full stop because it's a conversation-ending falling intonation. I can maaaybe hear the word 'bitch' in there if I try very hard to hear for it and I'm willing to be imaginative for a moment. But yeah – that's what she said, and to me it's not remotely ambiguous.

    I don't think Bloix is accusing Prof. Liberman of engaging in both-sides-ism here – more the general tone of the media coverage, and particularly that of Fox News and its ilk. Whether he's right or not I don't know, but it's *definitely* the sort of rationale that a psuedo-political (read: propagandist) news organisation like Fox News would use in the sort of semi-democratic political system the US has. And I don't agree that his rhetoric is 'repugnant'. Aggressive, yes – but I think it's a reasonable account of his opinion.

  15. Andrew Usher said,

    July 23, 2020 @ 9:01 pm

    If there's any question about it, I certainly did not mean to say that Liberman was engaged in any sort of politics while posting this, and I can't say if Bloix meant to.

    I used the word 'repugnant' not because I believe he is lying but because I strongly dislike that kind of partisanship where it seems that pulling down the other side is the only goal.

    I admit the last word could be 'engage' but I would not have said that without prompting – I don't normally find it impossible to disentangle two speakers, but in that precise moment, with that recording, I do (perhaps there were more than two?).

  16. Triple i Consulting said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 12:29 pm

    Strangely, with that recording I think my brain could process it both ways when coerced how to think.

    Could this be considered a kind of audio pareidolia?

  17. Yerushalmi said,

    July 25, 2020 @ 7:04 pm

    I hear "Okay, you don't want to engage" fairly clearly.

    And since I was able to hear both "Yanny" and "Laurel" simultaneously and I saw the dress as black and blue, you should all trust my perceptions unquestioningly :)

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