Male senators accused of interrupting Kamala Harris because of her gender

Ms Harris was also interrupted last week during a Senate intelligence committee hearing

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Wednesday 14 June 2017 23:05 BST
Senator Kamala Harris and Jeff Sessions have testy exchange in Senate hearing over Russia

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Democratic Senator Kamala Harris may have been interrupted again by her Republican colleagues during a hearing because she is a woman, some have suggested.

When asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his refusal to answer questions regarding discussions he may have had with Donald Trump, Republican senator John McCain interjected, suggesting that Ms Harris should give Mr Sessions time to respond to her queries.

“The witness should be allowed to answer the question,” Mr McCain said.

Republican Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the committee, quickly responded, telling Ms Harris to “let him answer”.

Mr Sessions testified publicly as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election. During the hearing, the attorney general – a close adviser to Mr Trump during his presidential campaign – rejected accusations that he may have colluded with the Russians. He also repeatedly refused to discuss his conversations with the President.

Ms Harris appears to have been the only senator that was interrupted and scolded throughout the proceeding, even though many senators, including Democrat Mark Warner, the ranking member of the committee, also interrupted Mr Sessions’ responses to questions.

A similar exchange had occurred last week at a Senate intelligence committee hearing that involved hours of aggressive questioning of top intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Again at the plea of Mr McCain, Mr Burr admonished Ms Harris for cutting off Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, telling her to be more courteous in her questioning.

“The chair is going to exercise the right to allow the witnesses to answer the question, and the committee is on notice to provide the witnesses the courtesy – which has not been extended all the way across – extend the courtesy for questions to get answered,” Mr Burr said.

Several critics of Mr Burr’s comments have raised the issue on social media of whether gender has played a role in the interruptions.

On Tuesday, Democratic senator Ron Wyden tweeted that Ms Harris was again doing her job.

“She was interrupted for asking tough questions. I was not interrupted,” Mr Wyden said.

News outlets have already named Ms Harris a potential contender for the 2020 presidential election, although she has avoided discussing her future ambitions.

A few hours after the hearing concluded, Ms Harris tweeted, “The women of the United States Senate will not be silenced when seeking the truth,” along with a link to a fundraising page for female Senators.

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