Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren apologized on Thursday for her sexist tweet about Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) the previous night, arguing that it was “the wrong choice of words.” But she previously pushed the same repugnant smear on her Fox Nation show, and several other Fox commentators have also promoted the narrative.
During the July 31 Democratic presidential debate, Lahren attacked Harris for her relationship with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown in the mid-1990s, tweeting, “Kamala did you fight for ideals or did you sleep your way to the top with Willie Brown?”
The sexist narrative has gained traction on anonymous message board fever swamps and among right-wing influencers like Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, and the actor James Woods. In a February article on the unique challenges women face on the presidential campaign trail, The New York Times’ Maggie Astor cited critics’ references to Harris’ past relationship with Brown, calling them “a common tactic faced by women that sexualizes them and reduces their successes to a relationship with a man.”
Lahren’s vile Tweet was widely condemned, including by some of her Fox colleagues. Network commentators Britt McHenry and Kat Timpf both chastised the Fox Nation host on Twitter, and several Fox employees admonished her in comments to CNN’s Oliver Darcy. “It makes me sick that I work for the same company as Tomi Lahren,” one told him.
On Thursday morning, Lahren tweeted, “I apologize for my comment on Kamala’s personal relationship. It was the wrong choice of words. There are many other things to take her to task for and I will stick to those.”
But Lahren hasn’t limited her use of this misogynistic smear to her personal Twitter feed -- she previously devoted an entire episode of her Fox Nation show to the claim.
Lahren accused Harris of “using an extramarital affair to boost her political career” and “dating [her] way to the top” during the January 29 edition of Final Thoughts, her weekday afternoon program on Fox’s streaming service. The episode featured the chyron “Kamala’s Affair Boost.”
Lahren faced no apparent consequences for the Fox Nation segment, which largely flew under the radar. That’s by design -- the streaming service was intended to provide content that “could be even less restrained than the network’s evening programming,” in part because its audience is the biggest Fox superfans. By contrast, her more publicly accessible tweet drew immediate criticism from others on Twitter, including her colleagues, and she apologized within hours.
But other Fox personalities have used their network platforms to make similar insinuations about Harris’ decades-old relationship with Brown.
Joseph diGenova, a Republican lawyer who regularly appears on Fox, referred to Harris as “Willie Brown’s paramour” during a May 1 segment on the Fox prime-time show The Ingraham Angle.
DiGenova was responding to Harris’ questioning of Attorney General William Barr during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, in which he claimed she had been “pretty snitty.”
Ingraham chuckled and responded, “Ouch.”
Others at Fox have made their references more oblique.
Fox contributor Newt Gingrich argued that Harris “has to be very careful about Willie Brown” with regard to “her early career” on the January 28 edition of Fox & Friends. He added that she “may end up with some interesting things to answer.”
Gingrich also referenced the narrative during a July 8 appearance on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria while bringing up a San Francisco Chronicle column Brown wrote in which he argued after the June primary debates that the candidates are not yet ready to defeat President Donald Trump.
In discussing the piece, Gingrich volunteered that Brown “knows Kamala Harris very, very well.”
Host Maria Bartiromo chimed in that Brown was “for a long time, very close with Kamala Harris.”
“He really was,” Gingrich replied. “And I think they may have had a falling out.”