Dem Braintrust: Sexist Media Behind Animosity to Harris

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August 5, 2021

Sexist reporters are responsible for Vice President Kamala Harris's unpopularity with voters, according to top Democratic strategists.

A group of powerful Democrats huddled together in July, according to an Axios story published Thursday, and came away from the meeting with a new media strategy aimed at reversing Harris's abysmal approval numbers: Convince journalists that sexism explains any criticism of her record. Veteran Democratic strategists, including former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile and Obama advisers Stephanie Cutter and Jennifer Palmieri, said the media's treatment of Harris can explain why so much of the public dislikes her.

"Many of us lived through the Clinton campaign, and want to help curb some of the gendered dynamics in press coverage that impacted HRC," one source familiar with the meeting said. "It was like: 'We’ve seen this before.' It’s subtle. But when things aren't going well for a male politician, we ask very different questions, and they’re not held to account the way a woman leader is."

With a 44 percent favorability rating according to a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls, Harris risks becoming one of the most unpopular vice presidents in modern history. She is already significantly less liked than her boss, President Joe Biden, who enjoys a 51 percent favorability rating according to RealClearPolitics.

Many of her current and former employees do not seem to like her either. Since taking office, several reports describe an abusive work culture at the vice president's office. One former staffer told Business Insider that he or she needed therapy to "resolve trauma from the on-the-job abuse." During her brief tenure as a California lawmaker, she oversaw some of the highest staff turnover in the Senate.

Harris has been tasked with overseeing a wide-ranging policy portfolio that covers some of the most important issues facing the country, including stemming the historically high flood of migrants at the southern border and expanding voting rights. She has not yet made headway with either issue.

One person at the dinner said they must "make sure the press knows" how "sexist overtones" pollute coverage of Harris. Without citing any particular examples of how Harris has been treated unfairly by the press, the women at the dinner suggested Harris highlight her history in California state politics.

That advice sounds similar to how Harris ran her failed presidential campaign, which centered around her record as a prosecutor in San Francisco and as California's attorney general.

"Listen, I became a prosecutor because, certainly, I wanted to do what was necessary to reform the system from the inside," she told a crowd on July 3, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. "And I also wanted to make sure that I could be in a place where I could protect people."

Harris dropped out of the race four months later after former Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard lambasted her for locking up thousands of Californians for marijuana-related offenses—a record that alienated voters after she joked about her past drug use on the campaign trail.


Updated 2:30 p.m.

Published under: Kamala Harris