And it soon became a family affair when Roberts’ wife, ABC News correspondent Kyra Phillips, was dragged into the melee.
The veteran reporter was visibly angry after McEnany refused to criticize far-right groups by name on the president’s behalf after he told fringe right-wing group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during Tuesday’s shambolic debate.
“For all of you on Twitter hammering me for asking that question: I don’t care,” Roberts, 63, said on Thursday afternoon during a live cross from the White House lawn.
“Because it’s a question that needs to be asked and, clearly, the president’s Republican colleagues a mile away from here are looking for an answer for it, too,” he went on.
“So stop deflecting, stop blaming the media,” he said, spitting out, “I’m tired of it.”
The frustrated outburst appeared to catch his Fox News colleague Melissa Francis off guard, who stuttered in response, “Alright, John Rob — John Roberts is tired of it.”
Roberts and McEnany got into a heated exchange during the briefing when he asked her to make a “definite and declarative statement” denouncing white supremacism in all its forms on the president’s behalf.
But McEnany pushed back and instead listed many previous remarks the commander in chief had made calling out hatred and white supremacists.
“The president has denounced this repeatedly. The president was asked this — you’re contriving a storyline and a narrative,” McEnany told Roberts.
The 25-minute briefing was dominated by reporters and McEnany sparring over Trump’s debate remarks, and at points devolved into a shouting match.
Trump’s top spokeswoman pointed to the fact that the president condemned racism and distanced himself from the Proud Boys with reporters the day before.
“I’ve always denounced any form — any form, any form — of any of that, you have to denounce,” Trump said Wednesday, while calling for Democratic nominee Joe Biden to do the same for far-left group Antifa, which has been linked to recent riots in US cities.
Following Roberts’ angry outburst, McEnany took to Twitter to point out that the question to Trump came from none other than his wife.
“.@johnrobertsFox I would refer you to your wife’s reporting from 21 hours ago… accurate reporting I cited in the White House Press Briefing,” McEnany wrote in her missive, sharing Kyra Phillips’ tweet.
During Tuesday’s debate, Fox News moderator Chris Wallace pressed Trump to condemn white supremacists and militia groups following deadly clashes and rioting in US cities Kenosha, Wis. and Portland, Ore.
His reply that extremist groups like the Proud Boys needed to “stand back and stand by” was immediately considered by members as a call to arms, even adopting the remarks as their new motto.
Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said the remarks were “unacceptable,” while Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), one of just two black Republican members of Congress, said Trump needed to clarify his stance.
“I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it,” he told reporters.