By now you’ve probably seen Sen. Kamala Harris’ atrocious response to a man who referred to Donald Trump’s actions as “mentally retarded” at a New Hampshire town hall event on Friday.
If not, here’s the video:
It was shared on Twitter by disabled healthcare advocate Kendally Brown in one of those “Holy shit, I can’t believe it’s 2019 and I have to point this out” moments. (More on that later.)
The man, who according to CNN is from the same city in India as Harris’ mother, expressed some valid concerns about Trump’s racism. But then he capped it off with the R-word, which should’ve made everyone in the audience cringe. Instead, people clapped and laughed, and Harris laughed, too, adding: “Well said. Well said.”
Harris’ amused affirmation clearly was a response to the man describing Trump’s actions with the R-word. Which is why I’m having difficulty taking the so-called apology Harris issued later at face value.
Expectedly, the California senator received a significant amount of criticism on social media on Saturday. She responded how most politicians would in such a situation (excluding Trump, of course): by apologizing, on camera and on Twitter.
“When my staff played the video from my town hall yesterday, it was upsetting,” she wrote. “I didn’t hear the words the man used in that moment, but if I had I would’ve stopped and corrected him. I’m sorry. That word and others like it aren’t acceptable. Ever.”
That statement would be perfectly acceptable—if it were entirely credible. Watch the video again and ask if the video correlates with her statement.
Harris also spoke with CBS News reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns about the exchange. Here’s what she said, emphasis mine:
“It’s an incredibly offensive term. And as someone who has a long-standing relationship with advocacy for our disability community—in fact, I have a whole policy proposal on it that I’ve been working on for quite some time [that] we rolled out weeks ago—it’s offensive and you would think that in the year 2019, people would have a much better understanding of how hurtful a term like that can be, but also the history behind it, which is a history of really ignoring the needs and the realities and the capacity of our disability community.”
But. You. Laughed. At. It. !!!
Huey-Burns actually called Harris out on this, but added an out: “Did you hear him?”
“I heard him talk about the other stuff, and then that came later, and it was not something that I really heard or processed, or in any way condone,” Harris responded.
Just over a week ago, Harris did unveil a plan for Americans with disabilities in which she promised to fight for fair wages and civil rights for people with disabilities, along with more education funding and access. She also helped pass legislation for a state grant program to create incentives for businesses to hire more employees with disabilities, according to CNN.
And if elected to the White House, she has promised to hire people with disabilities for senior positions to help advise on domestic and economic issues.
All of this makes her insensitive response so confusing, and her “apology” certainly hasn’t helped to clarify.