Politics

Jen Psaki said racism & sexism are behind “harsher” criticism of Kamala Harris from the right

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pauses for a moment as she addresses reporters on Thursday, April 15, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)
White House Press Secretary Jen PsakiPhoto: White House

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Vice President Kamala Harris has been facing harsh criticism from the right for the past several months because of racism and sexism.

“I believe that it has been easier and harsher from some in the rightwing who have gone after her because she si the first woman, the first woman of color,” Psaki said on Politico’s Women Rule Exchange. “I’m not suggesting anyone will acknowledge that publicly.”

Related: Kamala Harris snuck into DC’s impromptu Pride parade before anyone noticed

This past weekend, CNN reported that Harris has “a rocky relationship with some parts of the White House.” An unnamed former aide to Harris said that the White House wasn’t doing enough to defend Harris, saying that she “has spend almost a year taking a lot of the hits that the West Wing didn’t want to take themselves.”

For example, just this week Fox News’s Tucker Carlson criticized Harris because, he insisted, she “is not from this country” despite being born in Oakland, California.

“For anyone who needs to hear it,” Psaki tweeted after the article was published, “@VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country—from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband.”

Today, she was interviewed by journalist Anita Kumar and was asked directly if she believes that Harris has faced more scrutiny because she is a Black and Indian American woman.

“Yes,” Psaki responded.

She stressed that she admires Harris: “She is the first African American woman, woman of color, Indian American woman to serve in this job. Woman. I mean, so many firsts, right? It’s a lot to have on your shoulders.”

“She is somebody who – at a much higher level than the rest of us – but who wants to be seen as the talented, experienced expert, substantive policy person, partner to the president, that she is,” Psaki continued. “But I do think there have been some attacks that are beyond, because of her identity.”

She is somebody who, at a much higher level than the rest of us, but who wants to be seen as the talented, experienced, you know, expert, substantive policy person, partner to the president, that she is. But I do think there have been some attacks that are beyond because of her identity.”

Just 28% of registered voters said they approved of how Harris was handling her job, according to a poll from last week. President Joe Biden’s approval rating in the poll was 38% percent, which isn’t good either.

“I think there’s plenty of people who don’t know who she is, and even if they do, they have no idea what she’s doing or what she’s not doing,” East Carolina University political science professor Jody Baumgartner told USA Today. “Vice presidents just don’t break through.”

Harris’s disapproval rating in the poll was 51%, lower than Biden’s 59%. This is because a much larger percentage of registered voters said they had no opinion about Harris compared to Biden (21% vs. 3%). Her 21% “no opinion” rating is the same as her predecessor Mike Pence’s in a 2017 poll.

According to the polling data, the highest discrepancy between Biden’s and Harris’s approval ratings were found among Democrats (where Biden’s approval rating was 20 percentage points higher) and Black voters (with a difference of 21%). Republicans gave both Biden and Harris a 2% approval rating.

Some experts say that her low disapproval rating among Black and progressive voters – even compared to Biden’s – has to do with her background as a prosecutor.

“I think the ‘Kamala is a cop’ analysis and a number of other things showed her to be a brazen and opportunistic political animal,” said University of Louisville Pan-African studies chairman Ricky L. Jones. “And it is something that worries anybody who actually pays attention to politics and pays attention to her career.”

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