What happened: Vice President Kamala Harris went to Minnesota over the weekend and was asked about her support for the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a controversial organization that has helped put violent offenders back on the street. Harris argued that those criticizing—or simply pointing out—her support for the fund were "playing political games" and peddling "misinformation and disinformation."
The bottom line: Harris did promote the Minnesota Freedom Fund, urging supporters to donate in June 2020 following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. "If you’re able to, chip in now to the @MNFreedomFund to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota," Harris wrote on Twitter.
Why it matters: The Minnesota Freedom Fund raised tens of millions of dollars in the weeks following Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. The group used a small portion of those funds—just $210,000 out of the $3.5 million it had spent by September 2020—to post bail for individuals arrested during the violent protests, riots, and looting that followed.
• Once the protests had died down, the Minnesota Freedom Fund used its massive fundraising haul to post bail for violent offenders who would go on to be charged with murder following their release. In August 2021, the fund bailed out career criminal George Howard following his arrest on a domestic violence charge. Three weeks later, he was charged with murder after allegedly shooting a 38-year-old Hispanic man during a road rage incident.
• The fund also helped secure the release of Shawn Michael Tillman, a repeat felon who was arrested for murder in May 2022 after allegedly shooting a passenger on a train platform in St. Paul. Tillman had previously been convicted on multiple counts of indecent exposure, as well as assault and unlawful possession of a firearm. He was released from jail weeks before the alleged murder after the Minnesota Freedom Fund posted his bail following another arrest for indecent exposure.
What they're saying: Glenn Kessler, the top fact-checker at the Washington Post, didn't even bother to assess Harris's claim. He simply re-upped his so-called fact check from two years ago, which criticized Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) for writing: "Kamala Harris helped violent rioters in Minnesota get out of jail to do more damage." Kessler didn't assign a rating to this arguably true statement but suggested that, "in theory," Cotton "would have been eligible for one Pinocchio" because he was "wrong to suggest that the donations led to the release of many protesters or rioters," even though that's not what Cotton said.
OUR FACT CHECK:
The Washington Free Beacon is committed to holding our elected leaders accountable by fact-checking their statements for dangerous misinformation that threatens to destroy our cherished democracy. What follows is the full excerpt from Harris's interview with a local news station in Minneapolis on October 22.
WCCO 4 News:
The Minnesota GOP is holding a press conference this afternoon to criticize you for your support a couple of years ago, before you were the vice president, for something called the Minnesota Freedom Fund that was really set up to help those who are arrested in the aftermath of the George Floyd riots—help them get out [on bail]. It's since been sort of morphed into something else and has been used to help people get out who have been accused of many other crimes. Do you have any thoughts about this?
Well, first of all, I am a child of parents who marched for civil rights in the 1960s in America, and I have always been and will always be a supporter of peaceful protests. Many peaceful protests over the history of our country have led to an expansion of rights and an expansion of civil rights. So that's where I stand on peaceful protest, and I think that unfortunately what we're seeing is people are playing political games right now. We're 18 days from midterms, and we have sadly not seen a lack of misinformation and disinformation and I think this is another one of those examples.
Harris is not what anyone would call an eloquent public speaker. It is often difficult to discern what the hell she is talking about. This is especially true in unscripted interviews when a reporter asks a question that isn't a total softball. Her answer to this particular question is characteristically meandering and dismissive.
Nevertheless, her attempt to dismiss an indisputable fact—her support for the Minnesota Freedom Fund—as "misinformation and disinformation" is dangerously false. The reporter's description of the fund was fair and accurate. Harris is the one peddling misinformation and threatening to erode the core democratic principles upon which this country was founded.