Kayleigh McEnany Says She Warned Reporters Not to Buy Russia Bounties Story

Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is saying she warned reporters about buying into a New York Times story about Russia putting bounties on American troops.

"I was asked dozens and dozens of questions about the Russia bounties," McEnany recalled on Fox News Friday afternoon. "I cautioned reporters on the first day the story came out and I said, 'Do not be so quick to buy this New York Times story. This information is unverified. There are dissenting opinions in the intelligence community. Do not run with this narrative. It's just simply not true and not the case.'"

Last summer, a report from the New York Times claimed that American intelligence officials found that Russia's military intelligence secretly offered Taliban-linked militants bounties to kill remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The story sparked massive outcry from Democrats that former President Donald Trump's fondness for Vladimir Putin had endangered American troops.

However, on Thursday, the Biden administration announced that U.S. intelligence officials had "low to moderate" confidence in the reports of bounties.

Without walking back on the story entirely, a senior administration officials said, "This information puts a burden on the Russian government to explain its actions and take steps to address this disturbing pattern of behavior."

When asked about the story on Thursday, current White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration "felt the reports were enough of a cause for concern that we wanted our intelligence community to look into this report as a part of this overall assessment."

Kayleigh McEnany
Then–White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany participates in a briefing at the White House December 15, 2020. In response to new statements made by the Biden administration, McEnany said she previously warned the media about running with a "New York Times" report from last summer that Russia had put bounties on U.S. troops. Alex Wong/Getty

McEnany argued that the story was not only unfairly pushed by the media, but that it had detrimental impacts on military families whose loved ones were deployed at the time.

"Not only did they run with [the story], it is remarkable if you take a walk through memory lane, at The New York Times convincing military families, who had their loved ones killed in action, that in fact Russia bounties were probably to blame," she said. "And not only that, but their commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump, just simply didn't care."

"It was a heinous allegation. They ran with it. CNN dropped the word 'alleged' from their reporting. The Washington Post said they had verified their reporting and then went on to give President Trump four pinocchios over it," McEnany continued. "It was amazing. It was a story, a narrative that set in the summer. One that took hold and was so heinous at the heart of it that the commander-in-chief would not care about United States military men and women in the line of battle. It was egregious and I'm glad this day of accounting has come."

Trump's treatment of military members has previously been subject to scrutiny.

News outlets reported in the past that Trump disparaged U.S. troops and veterans by calling them "losers" and "suckers," claims that his administration disputed. But Democrats and Joe Biden used these reports as a major line of attack against Trump during the 2020 presidential election.

On Thursday, the Biden administration imposed new sanctions against Russia in response to Russia's interference in the 2020 election and its alleged role in the SolarWinds hack.

In retaliation to these sanctions, Russia's foreign minister announced on Friday that the government plans to expel 10 American diplomats and ban other American officials from traveling to Russia.

Newsweek reached out to The New York Times for comment but did not hear back before publication.