Accuracy in Media

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) once went toe-to-toe with former vice president Joe Biden on the debate stage, criticizing him for his work with desegregationists and busing policies. Now, Harris has done a political about-face and endorsed Biden in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primary race.

NBC News headlined its praise for Harris change of heart on Biden’s candidacy, “Kamala Harris endorses Joe Biden,” but the headline did not mention Harris’s on-air spat with Biden during a June 2019 televised debate.

Although NBC News noted that Harris and Biden had a contentious argument in that debate, it only wrote one sentence about their argument. The news outlet wrote, “He [Biden] said at the time that he is “not good at keeping hard feelings” when asked if there was any tension left between the two stemming from an episode during the first Democratic primary debate in June when Harris assailed Biden over his record on busing.” NBC News failed to diligently outline the reasons behind Harris’s attack on Biden’s record, in addition to failing to provide context of their disagreements. Because of NBC News’s failure to provide context, we will do so below.

In that debate, Harris told Biden that she did “not believe that you are a racist.” But she accused him of compromising with desegregationist lawmakers in spite of their beliefs. She said, “I also believe — and it is personal, and it was actually very hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputation and career on the segregation of race in this country.” Harris’s comment stemmed from Biden’s past statement that he worked with desegregationist lawmakers in Congress to get bills passed. Biden’s original comment was the following:

“At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

Harris continued, “And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.” She referred to herself as a young girl who was involved in the busing policy. Busing was the practice of moving black students to previously all-white schools to desegregate schools. Biden had opposed busing on the grounds that busing transported children to unsafe neighborhoods and subjected children to long commutes, which put him on the same side of desegregationist lawmakers.

Harris’s poll numbers briefly jumped after the June 2019 debate while Biden’s poll numbers took a hit. But Harris later dropped out of the race due to various factors, such as fundraising and not being able to make headway in the then-crowded primary field.

Her endorsement of Biden’s candidacy was hypocritical, considering her criticism of Biden’s past stance on busing and his work with desegregationist lawmakers in Congress. NBC News did not outline the hypocrisy of Harris’s endorsement and nor did the news outlet adequately detail their policy disagreements, which demonstrated a lack of factual and ethical journalism.

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