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Fox News Is Leading the Attack on Kamala Harris

Donald Trump’s criticisms of the Democratic vice presidential nominee don’t make a lot of sense. As usual, his favorite network is stepping in.

California Senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson tried to channel Edward R. Murrow. Discussing Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Carlson flew into a rage after being challenged by consultant Richard Goodstein. “So it begins! You’re not allowed to criticize her!” Carlson fumed. “I love the idea that she’s immune from criticism because on this show, no one is immune from criticism. Our political leaders must be held to account: That’s our job.”

Goodstein’s offense? Correcting Carlson’s pronunciation of “Kamala.” As anyone who paid the slightest attention to the interminable Democratic primary knows, it’s pronounced “COMMA-la.” Carlson, who certainly knows this, kept calling her “CAM-ala.” It isn’t a particularly tough name to pronounce correctly. But Carlson was intent on disrespecting the California senator, then using her name to claim that it was, as usual, the left that was out of line. Carlson then continued butchering Harris’s name. The following evening, he built a statement out of the reaction to his repeated mispronunciation of “Kamala”—and then claimed that Harris would give Covid-19 vaccines to people of color first.  

Compared to the rest of Fox News’s programming in the wake of Harris’s selection, Carlson’s tantrum was subtle. In one of the most egregious examples of the Trump-Fox feedback loop yet, the network’s hosts spent much of Tuesday night reading from the Trump campaign’s playbook: Harris is foreign, they suggested, and intent on seizing power for dark purposes. Biden, meanwhile, is a doddering fool, controlled by powers he is not cogent enough to discern. It amounted to an hours-long anti-Harris campaign ad—one that was striking because it was sleeker and punchier than the attacks coming out of the Trump campaign. 

Harris has been a strong favorite in the veepstakes for months. Despite acres of lead time, Trump and the Republican National Committee came up with a muddled message. Harris, in their version, is both too tough on crime (having been a prosecutor who played a role in the rise of mass incarceration in California) and too soft on crime (her goal is to bring anarchy and violence to every city in America). She is both a cynical careerist and a doctrinaire Marxist set on ending private enterprise.

On Fox, there was more focus. The network certainly takes cues from the president, but more often the flow of information works the other way around, with hosts trying to lead Trump where they want him to go. Taking the negative polling that does exist on Harris (during the primary, voters felt she was insincere and too ambitious), they built a demonic caricature. Harris, in their telling, was a mix of Lady Macbeth and Shylock. Carlson said there are “payday lenders who are more sincere.”

Harris is not just a possible successor to Biden, according to Fox News; she is the real candidate. Nearly every host scoffed at the possibility that Biden had actually selected her. “This is kinda like when you go out to a restaurant with your grandfather and you have to order for him,” said Jesse Watters, who has apparently added ageism to his usual comedy repertoire (i.e., making racist jokes about Asians). “Joe didn’t make this pick. This pick was made for Joe.”

“Who really picked this woman to be the vice presidential candidate?” Jeanine Pirro asked Sean Hannity. “I believe Joe Biden isn’t even going to be on the ticket in the end because I can’t believe he would pick this woman.” On Wednesday, Pirro made the same point in an even more ominous fashion. “I have a sense that something’s going to happen before the election, and he’s not even going to be on the ticket, so don’t even ask me if he’s going to make the four years,” she said. Pressed by Brett Baier about what that “something” could be, Pirro only said she wished Biden “good health.” 

That shadowy forces—George Soros, the Muslim Brotherhood—are secretly controlling the Democratic Party is a favorite theme of Fox News’s opinion-side programming. (Indeed, Ayaan Hirsi Ali told Carlson on Tuesday that she believed that the Muslim Brotherhood is writing Biden’s talking points with the goal of instituting Sharia law in America.) Pirro may have yada yada-ed the conspiracy, but the point is clear: The Democratic Party and their enablers are conspiring to replace the senile Biden with the sinister Harris. 

With Harris, they have another puppetmaster, someone whose vice presidential candidacy practically amounts to elder abuse. Having failed to cast Biden as a geriatric Trotsky, they’ve moved on to Harris. On Tuesday, Sean Hannity said, “This pick solidifies what’s the most extreme radical far-left out of the mainstream ticket of any major political party in American history.” On Wednesday, Hannity went further, claiming that the former prosecutor was selected because she is a “favorite of the radical far left,” which could not be further from the truth.  

Harris’s identity—her father is Black and was born in Jamaica, her mother was from India—has also been fodder for the network. Dinesh D’Souza, with callipers just out of view, told Laura Ingraham that Harris shouldn’t be considered Black because her father has said that he was related to one of Jamaica’s largest slave owners. (D’Souza, fresh off of defending Trump’s pronunciation of “Thailand” as “Thigh-land,” did not explain how black people came to live in Jamaica.) Harris’s identity is a complex subject that should be treated with nuance. But for D’Souza and Fox News, it’s an excuse to muddy Harris’s standing as a historic candidate—the third woman on a presidential ticket, the first Black vice presidential nominee, and the first Indian-American nominee. 

The one person who didn’t get in on the Harris-bashing was Trump himself. Hannity asked the president, who had called into his show on Tuesday, for his take on the Democratic vice presidential nominee. He seemed bored. “I don’t quite get the choice, but we will have it out,” Trump said. The focus quickly shifted to the issues that Trump really cares about: Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier. For Trump, it’s always 2016. But Fox News has him covered.