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It has been well over a month since 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate and critics on both sides of the aisle are starting to wonder why she hasn’t been more accessible to the media.
Many figured that Harris would be the public face of the campaign, as the gaffe-prone Biden hasn’t exactly been the most accessible candidate himself. But an NBC News reporter noted on Tuesday that Harris hasn’t formally taken questions from reporters since she was added to the ticket.
“A reminder that it has been 42 days since Harris was tapped as the VP pick. There are 42 days until election day,” NBC News reporter Deepa Shivaram tweeted. “The senator has not once formally taken questions from the press.”
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Fox News confirmed that Harris hasn’t participated in a formal press conference or gaggle, although she has spoken to friendly outlets such as BET, MSNBC and CNN and appeared on Showtime’s late-night talk show, “Desus & Mero.” Harris has also occasionally provided brief answers to reporters’ shouted questions, but the NBC News campaign embed isn’t satisfied.
“She sat down for two interviews, ones with NBC and CNN. She has done local press interviews in the states she's traveled to. But besides the few shouted questions, no – there has not been a gaggle where reporters who are on the ground can ask questions,” Shivaram added in a follow-up tweet when a follower asked for clarification.
ABC News' Jonathan Karl agreed and tweeted, "A candidate for Vice President should be answering questions regularly."
Daily Beast reporter Sam Stein added, "The Biden campaign’s reluctance to talk to the press is not just annoying (though it’s that), it’s bad for our system of governance (especially during COVID) and has a foul stench of insecurity."
Washington Post’s Dave Weigel also chimed in, noting that 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine participated in at least one press gaggle during the brief time he covered the campaign.
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While reporters from liberal outlets are peeved, others are looking for answers. Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson isn’t surprised that Harris has largely dodged the press, annoying reporters in the process.
“Kamala Harris is as much a gaffe machine as Joe Biden, without Biden’s folksy charm."
“Kamala Harris is as much a gaffe machine as Joe Biden, without Biden's folksy charm. It's the main reason her primary campaign was a flop, the hype of Harris never met the reality of Harris and even Democrat voters didn't support her,” Jacobson told Fox News.
It’s been well over a month since 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate and critics on both sides of the aisle are starting to wonder why she hasn’t been more accessible to the media. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
While Jacobson understands the campaign’s strategy, conservative strategist Chris Barron called the lack of access to Harris "utterly bizarre and absolutely unprecedented” compared to past running mates.
“Sarah Palin was ridiculed by the media for not being available enough and yet here we have Harris refusing to answer questions six weeks after she was picked by Biden,” Barron told Fox News. “The obvious question is why does the Biden campaign want to hide Harris? What are they afraid of?”
“The obvious question is why does the Biden campaign want to hide Harris? What are they afraid of?”
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall believes Harris' unwillingness to take questions from the press “appears to be a continuation of the overall Biden campaign strategy of running out the clock while sitting on a lead,” as the Democratic ticket continues to top President Trump in many polls.
“Biden himself has had minimal exposure to press questioning and Harris is following this lead. When Harris was named to the ticket, it was assumed by many pundits that she would be front and center in front of the media… to compensate for Biden's lower visibility,” McCall told Fox News. “That has clearly not been the case.”
Biden is regularly accused of staying in his basement amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, although he has been out more recently. The former vice president has also been accused of relying on a teleprompter during live interviews, which his campaign insists is simply a Trump talking point.
“On one level, this lack of press interaction by Biden and now Harris makes sense in that it leaves the media to focus on all things Trump, which, given the media's rough treatment of Trump, only helps the Biden campaign,” McCall continued. “But this low press engagement strategy could rhetorically backfire, too, in that it comes off as evasive and rather gutless to some news consumers in the electorate.”
"This low press engagement strategy could rhetorically backfire, too, in that it comes off as evasive and rather gutless to some news consumers in the electorate.”
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McCall feels keeping Harris minimized could also result in voters concluding that the Biden camp just “isn't confident enough in her” to avoid rhetorical missteps and gaffes.
“For now, the Biden-Harris avoidance of the press seems to be working, but it doesn't come without risks,” McCall said.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.
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