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Right-wing media leap to attack Kamala Harris as the Democratic vice presidential candidate

On August 11, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his vice presidential running mate. While coverage from right-wing media has yet to coalesce into consistent messaging around Harris as the potential vice president, their initial reaction focused on calling Harris a hypocrite for being Biden’s running mate given her criticism of him during the primary, using the announcement as an opportunity to revive misinformation about Biden’s health, launching sexist and racist attacks against Harris, and describing her as radical or extreme.

  • Attacking Harris as a hypocrite

  • Right-wing media figures are calling Harris a hypocrite for accepting the nomination after heavily criticizing Biden for his previous positions on busing and desegregation during the primary debates. They act aghast that Harris would stand side by side with a man she supposedly called racist -- which Harris never actually did, but which right-wing media have repeatedly lied about. Presidential candidates have been going at each other in debates and then making nice once the primaries are over for decades, but right-wing media have seized on this one very specific incident tied to Harris’ race for special attention, hinting that this line of attack is a lot more racist and sexist than it first appears.

  • The Daily Caller:

  • Townhall:

  • Media Research Center:

  • Right-wing radio host Steve Deace:

  • Right-wing podcast host Stephen L. Miller:

  • Using the announcement to amplify attacks on Biden’s mental health

  • Right-wing figures and media have repeatedly questioned Biden’s mental capacity. Following the announcement of Harris as Biden’s running mate, right-wing figures used the opportunity to renew their attacks on Biden’s mental health. 

  • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk:

  • OANN’s Jack Posobiec:

  • Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel:

  • Turning Point USA contributor Graham Allen:

  • The Gateway Pundit published an article claiming that MSNBC had edited an image of Biden calling Harris to crop out a note on his desk (the article originally incorrectly claimed it was aired by CNN). The article implied Biden was mentally unfit by claiming he needed “a cheat sheet script to ask Kamala Harris to be his running mate.” 

  • Fox News' Greg Gutfeld:

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Five

  • Fox News’ Jesse Watters:

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Five

  • Launching sexist and racist attacks

  • Right-wing media started engaging in sexist and racist attacks against Harris, including saying that she owes her political career to former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Brown implied in early 2019 that he helped Harris further her career. He dated her in the 1990s, and she broke off the relationship before he was inaugurated as mayor. When Brown served as California State Assembly speaker, he appointed Harris to two state commissions. The sexist narrative gained traction during the Democratic primary on Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” subreddit (a forum devoted to President Donald Trump that has since moved off Reddit), as well as with right wing media figures.

    Right-wing media also claimed Harris was “unlikeable,” too “ambitious” and saying all attacks against her will be perceived as sexism. The overly “ambitious” argument has been applied disproportionately to potential Black running mates for Biden even before Harris' announced selection.

    Several right-wing media figures also began racist attacks against Harris -- refuting her own identity as Black based on her heritage and pushing an unproven claim that her ancestors owned slaves.

  • Linking her to Willie Brown

  • Infowars’ Owen Shroyer:

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Infowars' War Room

  • Stephen L. Miller:

  • The Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft:

  • Fox News’ Tucker Carlson:

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

  • Actor James Woods:

  • Radio host Joe Pagliarulo:

  • Joe Pagliarulo: "She didn't sleep her way to the top did she? ... I'm just asking, just putting it out there."

    Audio file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Compass Media Networks' The Joe Pags Show

    JOE PAGLIARULO (HOST): She didn't sleep her way to the top did she? Willie Brown didn't say that did he? Her 80-year-old ex-boyfriend or something. That didn't happen did it?

    CARI LAQUE: He said he did, yeah.

    PAGLIARULO: I'm just asking, just putting it out there.

  • Radio show Walton and Johnson:

  • Violent far-right gang The Proud Boys:

  • Meme that says "when nobody knew who you were until you got on your knees" with pictures of Monic Lewinsky, Colin Kaepernick, and Kamala Harris
  • Far-right radio host Wayne Allyn Root accused Harris of “prostitution”:

  • Wayne Allyn Root promotes sexist smear of Kamala Harris

    Audio file

    Citation From the August 12, 2020, edition of USA Radio Networks' The Wayne Allyn Root Show

  • Claiming she’s “unlikeable” and too “ambitious”

  • New York Post’s Miranda Devine: “There's something that's not warm about her.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 12, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

  • Fox News host Jesse Watters: “I wouldn’t trust Kamala Harris. I think she’s very ambitious.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Five

  • Fox News guest DeRoy Murdock: “She seems to come across as a bit abrasive.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the August, 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum

  • Right-wing commentator Ned Ryun:

  • Conservative radio host Michael Berry:

  • Michael Berry: "She comes across as overly ambitious. She comes across as a very cynical candidate who does everything she can to serve her ambition."

    Audio file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of iHeartRadio's The Michael Berry Show

    MICHAEL BERRY (HOST): If you just tuned in, we don't know if Joe Biden has been informed yet but his campaign chose Kamala Harris as his running mate. She's half Indian, Indian immigrant, and half Jamaican, Jamaican immigrant, and yet she's being portrayed as the first African American woman to be on a presidential running ticket. I don't know what we do with that.

    ...

    CALLER: They did a great pick because she's not a natural-born citizen. So if something happens to Biden, she can't be president. So the next one is the sitting Speaker of the House which is Pelosi, so that's why they picked her. She has no chance of being president.

    BERRY: Oh I think you'd be surprised. If Biden wins, and we're going to have to do everything we can to prevent that from happening, I think there is an 80% chance she is the president without having been elected president. I think there is an 80% he does not serve out a full term. I'd say there's a 60% chance he does not serve out a full term. I mean Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been on life support for a long time so if they can keep her alive just long enough, I guess they can do that for Biden but they would have less of an incentive.

    ...

    BERRY: For whatever reason, Kamala Harris is off-putting to voters. Now, I know your reaction, "she's off-putting to me." She's off-putting to me as well. She comes across as overly ambitious. She comes across as a very cynical candidate who does everything she can to serve her ambition.

  • Conservative radio host Michael Savage: Harris “picked up the cadence, the whininess of Michelle Obama.”

  • Michael Savage: Kamala Harris "picked up the cadence, the whininess" of Michelle Obama's voice

    Michael Savage
    Audio file

    Citation From the August 12, 2020, edition of Westwood One's The Savage Nation

  • Claiming all attacks against her will be labeled sexism

  • RealClearPolitics’ Tom Bevan:

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' Your World

  • Fox News' Greg Gutfeld:

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Five

  • Questioning Harris’ racial identity

  • The National Pulse’s Raheem Kassam:

  • Former Turning Point USA Communications Director Candace Owens:

  • Right-wing radio host David Webb:

  • Former CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord:

  • Conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza:

  • Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes:

  • Post from Parler from Gavin McInnes
  • Newsmax’s Diamond & Silk

  • Diamond & Silk: Kamala Harris is "not even Black."

    Audio file

    Citation From the August 12, 2020, edition of WMAL's Mornings on the Mall

    SILK: It's a sad day in America when you have to pick somebody as vice president based off of affirmative action.

    VINCE COGLIANESE (HOST): Diamond & Silk you know a lot about having a productive partnership and actually doing something good with it. If -- if, Silk, if Diamond accused you of being a racist and a sexual abuser would you keep working with her?

    SILK: No, I would not. I would not want to work with her. But see you have got to understand something about Kamala Harris. Kamala is not even Black. So you know when she talks about racism, that's why she don't care about it. She's not even Black.

    COGLIANESE: What do you mean when you say that, what does that mean?

    DIAMOND: She has no focus. She claiming now she is Black. Somebody claimed that she was Asian American and then they are saying she's Indian. I don't know what she is.

  • Describing Harris as radical or extreme

  • Since the announcement, right-wing media appear to be trying any number of different attacks. Though some are arguing that Kamala Harris’ record isn’t progressive enough to appease the left, others are arguing that Harris represents the pinnacle of far-left extremism, describing her as “radical,” “extreme,” or as being a “Marxist”.

  • Fox News host Sean Hannity: “Buckle up, because Kamala Harris and her record, it is extreme, it is radical hard left."

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • Fox News contributor Guy Benson: “ “The New York Times put out a tweet calling Kamala Harris a pragmatic moderate, which is pretty funny. I mean, she's not that. She is definitely a pretty hard leftist.”

  • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs: Kamala Harris brings with her “a host of radical policy ideas.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' Lou Dobbs Tonight 

  • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk:

  • Republican National Committee:

  • Donald Trump, Jr.:

  • Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: 

  • GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel: 

  • The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway: 

  • The Federalist published an article titled “No, Kamala Harris Isn’t A ‘Moderate’ — She’s A Radical Threat To America.”

  • The Federalist published another article titled “Why Kamala Harris’s Stealth Radicalism Is Worse Than Bernie Democrats’ Open Radicalism."

  • Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson wrote an op-ed for The Daily Caller claiming that Biden’s selection of Harris represents him “surrendering control of our nation to the radical left.”