“This Place is a Cesspool” — White House Staff, Secret Service & Reporters Terrified Upon Trump’s Return
When coronavirus-infected Donald Trump executed what CNN’s Jim Acosta dubbed his “Covita” moment and pulled off his face mask upon returning to the White House Monday evening, it likely sent a bone-chilling shudder through those who have to share the executive mansion with him.
White House custodians, ushers, kitchen staff, Secret Service agents and reporters have showed up every day throughout the pandemic to a workplace that has become a coronavirus hot spot. But now, as Trump has rejoined first lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive, in the residence, there is renewed anxiety among the staff of roughly 100 people — including housekeepers, cooks, florists, groundskeepers and five or six butlers — who interact most closely with the first family.
The mood within the White House is described as somber. Staffers are fearful they may have been exposed to the virus as they confront the reality that their worksite, which once seemed like a bubble of safety, is anything but.
One anonymous White House official offered this blunt assessment to Axios:
“It’s insane that he would return to the White House and jeopardize his staff’s health when we are still learning of new cases among senior staff. This place is a cesspool.”
Kate Andersen Brower, author of “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,” said, “The butlers always feel protective of the first family, but there’s just a concern about whether or not the staff would get sick.”
Many of the White House residence staffers are Black or Latino — demographic groups that have suffered higher rates of infection and death in the pandemic.
Fear of contracting the virus also is high among the Secret Service agents. Several who spoke with The Associated Press expressed concern over the cavalier attitude the White House has taken when it comes to masks and distancing. Colleagues, they said, are angry, but feel there’s little they can do. They told the AP that there’s a “difference between facing outside threats they have trained for — a gun, a bomb or a biohazard — and being put at additional risk because of behavior they characterized as reckless at times.”
Among White House reporters concern grew exponentially on Monday with the news that press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two of her deputies had tested positive for COVID-19. Three reporters have tested positive in recent days.
This is from an AP dispatch from what it described as a “ghost town” West Wing:
“After McEnany’s announcement Monday, Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts spent part of his afternoon waiting outside an urgent care center for his own test. He had attended McEnany’s briefing last Thursday. She didn’t wear a mask, and neither did one of her assistants who later tested positive, and Roberts sat near both of them. He tested negative.
“He called it an inconvenience, but stronger emotions were spreading. American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan said she found it infuriating that Trump and his team had risked the health of her colleagues. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins said it was ‘irresponsible, at best.’
“’It’s frustrating,” said Jonathan Karl, ABC News White House correspondent. ‘Frankly, it makes you angry.’”
Tuesday morning it was confirmed that a military aide who is in regular, close contact with Trump tested positive for the virus over the weekend. That brings to at least 15 the number of people connected with the White House who have contracted coronavirus.