Kamala to CNN in 2008: Decriminalizing Prostitution Would Hurt Society's Most Vulnerable

She now supports it.

March 6, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) went on with CNN host Mike Galanos to argue against a proposal to decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco in 2008, when she was the city's attorney general. (The presidential candidate came out last week in favor of legalizing prostitution.)

Harris was pitted during the July 2008 segment against a bisexual sex worker named Starchild, an advocate for the legislative proposal to decriminalize prostitution, which Harris opposed. Harris was clear in her remarks, captured by a local blog, that legalizing prostitution could have a negative impact on the San Francisco community.

"We want to have a society that protects the vulnerable and does not allow people to be exploited," Harris said. "Decriminalizing prostitution is simply not going to achieve that."

Harris further explained that the city had put resources toward informing prostitution users of the harmful impacts it has on the larger community.

"We've shown that there's a 30 percent reduction in recidivism when men have the opportunity to learn about what prostitution really means to not only the women involved, but also the communities impacted," Harris said.

Harris surprised many when she said last week she supports decriminalizing prostitution, given her documented opposition to the idea over the years. In 2008 she went as far as saying decriminalizing prostitution "would put a welcome mat out for pimps."

The Washington Free Beacon contacted CNN in an effort to obtain the full interview, but the network said it was unable to locate it in its archive. Efforts to contact Starchild, who currently associates himself with the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, were also unsuccessful.

Harris's statement in favor of legalized prostitution has made it an issue others in the field will have to grapple with, whether they're ready to or not. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), for example, was asked about it last week and admitted he doesn't have an answer.

"That's a good question, and I don't have an answer to it," Sanders said. "I see two sides on that."

Harris was also accused during the interview of telling San Francisco's Harvey Milk Democratic Club that she "wanted to be an honorary sex worker" while seeking out the group's nomination. Harris did not dignify the accusation with a response.