Supporters Decry Mainstream Media "Erasure" Of Kamala Harris

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Abeni Jones
November 1, 2019

Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for president to much fanfare, and her performance in the first debate was praised by many. It seemed like she was a major front-runner. But in the months since, she has fallen significantly in the polls.

In analyzing “What Happened To The Kamala Harris Campaign,” political analysis website FiveThirtyEight points to circumstance and competition with Warren and Biden, who are strong candidates. They also say, however, that she has not run a good campaign:

“She has not had a strategy of keeping herself in the news,” they say. But that may not actually be her fault.

According to an in-depth media analysis by journalist Courtney Swanson, Kamala Harris has had her record misrepresented, her success minimized, and her presence erased by mainstream media at a level experienced by no other candidate. Swanson argues - along with FiveThirtyEight - that her identity as a Black woman is to blame.

The #KamalaIsACop hashtag was paired with critiques of her record as a prosecutor and California Attorney General. Reporting indicates that many of the social media accounts spreading these critiques were actually Russian trolls intending to disrupt American politics.

Some of the critiques, like her role in the Jamal Trulove case, or that she fought to keep inmates in jail to fight wildfires, were later debunked - primarily by Black women on Twitter. They argue her true record is actually quite long and robust.

Kamala was the only presidential candidate to protest President Trump’s criminal justice award, and was one of only three candidates to attend the Criminal Justice Town Hall (with Cory Booker and Tom Steyer).

She has also consistently been erased in mainstream media. Though her signature policy is the LIFT Act, a Vox article about a similar experiment in Harris’ home state didn’t mention her at all. She’s been a leader in California on Black women’s maternal health, but a HuffPost article about the issue quoted Elizabeth Warren, not Harris. The Daily Beast tweeted that Pete Buttigieg’s plan to cap prescription drug costs was the “first” - but Harris’ similar plan was released months earlier.

She has also been erased from polls; MSNBC put Buttigieg in 4th place in a recent broadcast, erasing Harris entirely, though she was polling above him. MSNBC also erased her from a broadcast of an anti-gun violence PSA, though she was in the full-length clip

At the recent LGBTQ forum, her harsh treatment was made clear. “How can trans people trust [you]?” asked the moderator to Harris about her record with treating transgender inmates. Elizabeth Warren, a white woman who has a similar record, was asked, “How can people evolve like you?”

It appears that America is not ready for a powerful Black woman leader, at least according to Bakari Sellers, a journalist who adapted the Black axiom - that we often have to be “twice as good” - to Harris’ situation: 

“Kamala Harris has to run faster and jump higher than anybody else in this race… She cannot be equal to Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden; she has to lap them.”

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