Right-wing media’s sexist attacks on Kamala Harris after VP announcement
Right-wing media reacted to the announcement of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate not only by calling Harris a hypocrite, attacking her prosecutorial past, and spreading misinformation regarding Biden’s health, but also by using sexist rhetoric to try to denounce her as a candidate.
Right-wing media have claimed that Harris owes her political career to former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, whom Harris dated in the 1990s before he became mayor. When Brown served as California State Assembly speaker, he selected Harris for two state commissions. However, in 2019, Brown implied that he helped Harris further her career and thus this sexist narrative began gaining traction, particularly after Biden’s announcement.
- Infowars’ Owen Shroyer attempted to smear Harris with appalling comments regarding her relationship with Brown, saying, “She’s in it to win it. She doesn’t mess around. I mean, that’s why she got on her knees and, you know, gave a hummer to Mayor Willie Brown.”
- Actor James Wood tweeted, “He picks #KamalaHarris and the Dow drops faster than she did to #FreeWillie” alongside a meme of Biden and Harris at a Democratic primary debate with the caption “Joe/Blow 2020.”
- Right-wing radio host Joe Pagliarulo said of Harris, “She didn’t sleep her way to the top, did she? Willie Brown didn’t say that, did he?”
- The Twitter account for the Florida morning show Walton and Johnson tweeted, “Girls: if you work hard in life you too can be the vice presidential nominee for the Democrat party, just like [Kamala Harris].***
***As long as you’re willing to sleep with San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.”
- The American Spectator’s Dov Fischer wrote a piece titled “Why It Should Matter to Women That Kamala Harris Slept Her Way Up,” which claims that Harris “openly and brazenly slept her way into California Democrat state politics” through her relationship with Brown.
- Since Biden announced Harris as his running mate, broader sexist narratives calling Harris sexually explicit names and referring to her supposed sexual history have surged on online forums and pages.
Sexist tropes about ambition and likability
Right-wing media are using sexist attacks to try to smear Harris, commenting on her looks and her demeanor and claiming she is “abrasive” or too “ambitious.” The overly ambitious assertion was unjustifiably utilized in regard to potential Black running mates for Biden even prior to Harris’ announced selection.
- Fox News’ Mark Levin commented on Harris’ looks by quoting a Washington Examiner article, saying, “Her crusading leftism, hard-edged personal style, and facial sneer will make her like 10,000 fingernails on 1,000 loud chalkboards, amplified by a boom microphone so strong it could be heard for a hundred miles. … Throughout her presidential run Gallup never found her to have higher favorables than unfavorables. … Pretty good pick, I’d say, from my perspective.”
- On Fox and Friends, conservative columnist Miranda Devine used a typical misogynistic lens when commenting on Harris, saying, “There’s something that’s not warm about her.” Additionally, Devine twisted Harris’ hard work, commenting that “she is ruthlessly ambitious. So you can know that she is going to be very quick to push Joe Biden out of the way as soon as she gets a chance. So, she is looking at being president, not just vice president.”
- On Fox News’ The Five, co-host Jesse Watters claimed Harris is “kind of a phony” and said he “wouldn’t trust Kamala Harris. I think she’s very ambitious.”
- Conservative commentator DeRoy Murdock came after Harris’ demeanor on The Story with Martha MacCallum, saying that “she seems to come across as a bit abrasive, as the president mentioned. I don't know if she can warm things up and be a little more charming.”
- On his radio show, Michael Berry commented on Harris’ zeal for the position, claiming, “She comes across as overly ambitious. She comes across as a very cynical candidate who does everything she can to serve her ambition.”
- California Republican Party official Harmeet Dhillon claimed that Harris has sought “higher office … with the help of her powerful alliances with powerful men.”
- Fox News political analyst Gianno Caldwell called Harris the “2020 version of Hillary Clinton” and a “disingenuous flip-flopper who will say and do anything to win.”
- On Outnumbered Overtime, Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz criticized Harris’ treatment of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his 2018 confirmation hearing, calling it “nasty.” He then related her ambition to that of a “viper that’s going to try to take down Donald Trump by making the argument and sometimes a nasty way, nasty tones.”
- Radio host Rush Limbaugh promoted right-wing stories calling Harris a “mattress” who slept her way up throughout her political career and a “hoe,” mentioning a meme that calls the Biden/Harris ticket “Joe and the Hoe.”
The “female card”
Right-wing figures claim that the Biden/Harris campaign will deem any criticism of the vice presidential nominee as racist and sexist.
- On Your World with Neil Cavuto, RealClearPolitics President Tom Bevan criticized the Biden campaign for playing the “female card,” saying, “When the Trump campaign attacks Kamala Harris, … the Biden campaign is going to say, see, this is sexism writ large here, and the Trump campaign is afraid of having a powerful woman on the ticket.”
- Fox co-host Greg Gutfeld claimed that “any criticism leveled at her will be viewed as sexist or racist. She’s got the bifecta going.”
- Fox anchor Martha MacCallum said Biden’s decision to prioritize choosing a woman of color for a running mate “takes away” from the selection of Harris.
- On Your World with Neil Cavuto, MacCallum stated that “we have to not fall back on those sort of easy things, oh [Trump] is attacking her because she is a woman.”
- Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway commented on the misogynistic criticism Harris has received since the Biden-Harris ticket was announced, saying, “If you can't say women are aggressive, polarizing, calculating, insincere, ambitious -- all the things said about women close to this president and vice president, frankly -- these are tough jobs and we should look at that, we should look at the qualifications for the job.”
- On Sean Hannity’s radio show, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly demeaned Harris’ nomination, claiming, “She wasn’t chosen by Biden. Biden was involved with it, but she was chosen by the machine, the Democratic machine.” He alleged that she was chosen to “provoke” Trump into “saying things that might be considered racist or misogynist,” claiming that anyone who criticizes her will also be labeled as such. O’Reilly then called her vicious, stating she was “far more vicious than any of the other presidential contenders.”
- On Your World with Neil Cavuto, MacCallum said that Trump’s statement that Harris is “nasty” could be seen as inappropriate or “you can look back at some of the moments and you can make your own judgement about whether or not you think she was nasty in that moment.”
Bigoted commentary about gender identity
The Daily Wire’s anti-trans pundits suggested that Democrats’ support for transgender people mean there’s no reason for them to cheer the selection of a woman for the ticket.
- The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh mocked Democrats for celebrating Harris’ vice presidential candidacy, claiming that “women no longer exist according to [Democrats’] ideology.”
- The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro picked up on Walsh’s point, questioning the importance of Harris’ candidacy and claiming Democrats believe that “women don’t exist and a man can be a woman.” He went on to inquire, “What’s so historic about an individual with a cervix, as the media might put it, being selected as the VP candidate?”