Jen Psaki says attacks on Kamala Harris are partly borne out of racism

White House press secretary says ‘it has been easier and harsher from some on the right-wing who have gone after her because she is the first woman, the first woman of colour’ to hold role

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 18 November 2021 17:59

Related video: Rumors of Biden/Harris discord underscore problems for female politicians

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said that Vice President Kamala Harris faces tougher criticism because of her gender and race.

“I do think that it has been easier and harsher from some on the right-wing who have gone after her because she is the first woman, the first woman of colour,” Ms Psaki told Politico on Wednesday. “I think there’s no question that the type of attacks, the attacks on her, that certainly being the first, which she is many times over, is part of that.”

She added that making history as the first woman as well as being the first Black and Indian woman to become vice president is “a lot to have on your shoulders”.

“I do think there has been some attacks that are beyond because of her identity,” the press secretary said.

A poll released on 7 November showed a 28 per cent job approval rating for Ms Harris, the lowest approval for a vice president since Dick Cheney in 2007.

Ms Harris has suffered from critical media coverage for months since entering the executive branch, and she has been recently the subject of reports of dysfunction and exasperation. There has also reportedly been internal drama between the staffs of President Joe Biden and the VP’s team.

CNN reported that some of the vice president’s aides are annoyed at how she’s being treated within the administration, alleging that she’s been pushed to the side.

Ms Psaki said during a press briefing that the reports “don’t reflect [Biden’s] view or our experience with the vice president”.

VP spokesperson Symone Sanders told Politico in June that “we are not making rainbows and bunnies all day. What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I’m like ‘welcome to the club’”.

“We have created a culture where people, if there is anything anyone would like to raise, there are avenues for them to do so,” she added at the time. “Whoever has something they would like to raise, they should raise it directly.”

Ms Psaki tweeted on 14 November: “For anyone who needs to hear it. @VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country — from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband.”

The press secretary told Politico on Wednesday that Ms Harris is somebody who “wants to be seen as the talented, experienced expert, substantive policy person, partner to the president that she is”.

On Thursday, George Stephanopoulos asked Ms Harris on ABC’s Good Morning America if she felt “misused or underused”.

“No, I don’t,” she replied. “I’m very, very excited about the work that we have accomplished. But I am also absolutely, absolutely clear-eyed that there is a lot more to do, and we’re gonna get it done.”

Ms Harris has faced sexist and racist attacks from figures on the right since becoming Mr Biden’s nominee for vice president last year.

Earlier this week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson spoke negatively about her dating history and suggested that she wasn’t a proper American because she partly went to school in Canada.

According to the Pew Research Center, 59 per cent of American adults said in 2018 that “there were too few women in high political offices, including 69 per cent of women and 48 per cent of men who said this”.

“About three-quarters of women (74 per cent) and 60 per cent of men said it was easier for men to get elected to high political office,” Pew added.

Around 61 per cent of Americans said a “major reason why there were fewer women than men in high political office was because women had to do more to prove themselves than men”, the centre said.

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