Free Beacon Report Roils Democratic Debate

End of the Harris campaign?

screenshot/CNN

After Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) blasted Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) for her record on criminal justice and drug offenders at the second Democratic debate on Wednesday, Harris staffers lamented that the facts behind Gabbard's assault came from a Washington Free Beacon report.

"So Tulsi Gabbard's source for this lie was the @FreeBeacon. At least it wasn't Putin?" Harris deputy policy director Corey Ciorciari tweeted.

The ire from Harris supporters stemmed from the fact that Gabbard scored a hit on Harris when she accused the senator of a hypocritical stance on drug abuse as California's attorney general.

"Senator Harris said she was proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she'll be a prosecutor president but I'm deeply concerned about this record," Gabbard said during the debate. "She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana."

Gabbard also accused Harris of seeking the death penalty for an innocent man on death row, possibly a reference to the controversial case of Kevin Cooper.

"She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California, and she fought to keep cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way," Gabbard said.

Gabbard's information about drug abuse came from a Washington Free Beacon report which revealed that during Harris' time as attorney general, at least 1,560 people were sent to state prisons for marijuana-related offenses between 2011 and 2016 in California. Harris's record shows that she pressed hard against marijuana users and the substance's legalization throughout her tenure.

Columnists at the New York Times praised Gabbard's performance against Harris. Ross Douthat called her comments about marijuana the "sharpest attack of the night," Michelle Goldberg praised them as "absolutely brutal," and Maureen Dowd said that Gabbard had Harris "rattled."