After presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) would be his running mate, right-wing media initially had trouble narrowing down which lines of attacks to use against the vice presidential candidate. But they were still quick to deploy their tried-and-true anti-abortion playbook to paint her as too “extreme” to be elected, along with other right-wing media smears against reproductive rights.
Claiming Harris is too “extreme” on abortion
Since the start of the presidential election cycle, right-wing media have repeatedly argued that Democrats, including Harris, support “extreme” abortion positions that make them unelectable. For example, right-wing media frame the pro-choice stance of Harris, Biden, and other Democrats as support for “born-alive” abortions, abortions after 20 weeks, or abortions “at any time.” These attacks are based on right-wing misinformation that completely misconstrues or lies about abortions that occur later in pregnancy in an effort to reinforce stigma around already difficult situations.
- On the August 12 edition of Fox News @ Night, anchor Shannon Bream mentioned some of Harris’ record on abortion, including that she “voted against banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy,” and asked Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), “Is that the mainstream, Senator? And are you and your GOP colleagues the ones who are out of the mainstream on this issue of abortion?” Blackburn responded, “One of the things that we know is that she is out of the mainstream,” adding that “a Vice President Harris would be very dangerous for the American people.”
- Fox News’ Sean Hannity claimed that Harris makes the Democratic ticket the “most radical” in history and mentioned a vote on abortion.
- Newsmax: “Kamala Harris Takes Extreme Stance on Abortion.”
Kamala Harris has taken an extreme stance on abortion and if she becomes the next vice president everyone who is pro-life will be in for a difficult fight.
She has advocated for expanded women’s reproductive rights and will continue to fight for even more access to abortion if she becomes vice president, including, says one expert, abortions on demand, for any reason at any time, a position that puts her way out of step with most Americans.
- Breitbart’s Susan Berry wrote, “Harris brings with her an extreme ‘abortion on demand’ position and close ties with abortion industry giant Planned Parenthood.”
- Daily Caller’s Mary Margaret Olohan inaccurately explained, “Harris has a long history of advocating for increased abortion access and against pro-life policy: she has voted against abortion bills that protect the unborn after 20 weeks of pregnancy and voted against protecting babies born alive after failed abortions.”
Saying her investigation of the discredited organization Center for Medical Progress as California attorney general was politically motivated persecution
In 2015, the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released a series of deceptive videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. As the then-attorney general of California (where CMP is based), Harris oversaw the investigation of CMP’s potential violations of state law for recording conversations without participants’ consent. As part of that investigation, Harris’ office searched the apartment of CMP founder David Daleiden.
Since then, right-wing media and Daleiden himself have attacked Harris, claiming she targeted the “citizen journalists” at CMP for their videos. For example, in 2019, right-wing Christian outlet The Stream published a piece titled “Is Kamala Harris an Aspiring Dictator? We Asked One of Her Victims, David Daleiden.” In reality, media experts have agreed that CMP’s work is illegal or unethical and not journalism -- despite right-wing media claims to the contrary -- and therefore not subject to First Amendment protections given to undercover reporters for its deceptive content. Anti-abortion activists accuse Kamala Harris of a conflict of interest because her 2016 Senate campaign received money from Planned Parenthood while she was investigating Daleiden. In fact, it is pretty normal for state attorneys general to continue to do their jobs while campaigning, including looking into cases involving firms they’re connected to politically. This is true for both parties, but right-wing media have singled out Harris, who received only $2,400 from Planned Parenthood directly in 2016, because she’s prosecuted an anti-abortion group's leader.
In May 2020, Daleiden filed a lawsuit against Harris for selective enforcement of California’s video recording laws, claiming she violated his First Amendment rights to help the abortion industry. Right-wing media are now using Daleiden’s allegations to suggest Harris persecuted him at the behest of Planned Parenthood.
- Hannity invited Daleiden on his Fox News show to attack Harris:
- LifeNews.com headline:
- Faithwire wrote on August 12, “Pro-life journalist David Daleiden recently filed a lawsuit against presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, the former attorney general of California, for going after him in what one activist has described as a ‘mafia-style prosecution.’”
- The Washington Examiner published an August 11 editorial claiming:
As California attorney general, Harris prosecuted and persecuted pro-life undercover filmmaker David Daleiden for his work exposing Planned Parenthood’s trade in fetal remains. She seized his recordings while pursuing the abortion lobby’s endorsement for Senate. She was also the first prosecutor ever to use California’s eavesdropping laws against a journalist, all after secret consultations with the abortion provider.
- RealClearPolitics’ Mark Hemingway:
Suggesting Harris displayed “anti-Catholic bigotry” in her questioning of a federal judiciary nominee
In 2018, Harris and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) received unfair criticism that they were “anti-Catholic” after the pair questioned Brian Buescher, a nominee for the federal judiciary, about his membership in the Catholic anti-abortion organization the Knights of Columbus. Harris pointed out during the hearing:
Since 1993, you have been a member of the Knights of Columbus, an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men. In 2016, Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus, described abortion as “a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths.” Mr. Anderson went on to say that “abortion is the killing of the innocent on a massive scale.”
Harris then asked, “Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?” She then went on to ask about the nominee’s specific views on abortion.
Harris’ questions centered not on Buescher’s Catholic faith, but on his membership in an organization that Catholic for Choice characterized as using “its manpower and money to push for legislation that does not match the beliefs of many Catholics or the will of the electorate.” His membership was, in fact, relevant to how he would handle abortion-related cases on the federal bench. Right-wing media are now using that instance to attack Harris.
- On Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, American Conservative Union’s Matt Schlapp said Harris’ questions to the judicial nominee showed her “bigotry” and “hostility” toward him and said Biden “should have called this type of bigotry out”:
- On Fox News @ Night, Bream opened a discussion segment by rhetorically asking if Harris’ questions to Buescher will “be an issue now that she's joined the ticket of a man who calls himself a devoted Catholic, though he too has shifted left on issues of abortion.” Bream characterized Harris’ questions to Buescher as “suggesting that as if he was a practicing Catholic, he wouldn't be fit for the federal bench.”
- National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis wrote on August 11, “Someone might want to remind Joe Biden, who’s just picked progressive California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, that his vice-president-to-be believes Catholics are unfit to serve in our nation’s courts.”
- Washington Examiner’s Becket Adams:
- The Federalist claimed on August 12, “Harris and other Senate Democrats demonstrated shocking anti-Catholic bigotry in the confirmation hearings of Judge Brian Buescher.”