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Tipsheet

Jen Psaki Plays the Sexism Card While She Still Tries to Defend Kamala Harris

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

During a Wednesday "Women Rule" event with Anita Kumar of POLITICO, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki once more rushed to Vice President Kamala Harris' defense. The discussion comes after Psaki tweeted out her support for Harris on Sunday night, after CNN published an article by Edward Issac-Dovere and Jasmine Wright, with the explosive headline of "Exasperation and dysfunction: Inside Kamala Harris' frustrating start as vice president."

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When bringing up Harris' approval ratings, Kumar prefaced by pointing out "some of [Harris'] allies have attributed this to sexism. Do you think she is receiving more criticism because she's the first woman and first woman of color to serve as vice president?"

Psaki ran with it. "Yes. Criticism from the outside? Absolutely," she was quick to say. "I do think that it has been easier and harsher from some in the right wing who have gone after her because she is the first woman, the first woman of color. I’m not suggesting anyone will acknowledge that publicly, but I think there's no question that the type of attacks, the attacks on her, that certainly being the first she is many times over is part of that," she continued.

The press secretary went on by reminding everyone of Harris' demographics, as if this affected her qualifications, and what made her a person worth admiring. "What I would note though, and one of the things I really admire about the vice president, she is the first African American, woman of color, Indian American woman to serve in this job — woman," Psaki said. "I mean so many firsts, right? It’s a lot to have on your shoulders."

Psaki contradicted the left's narrative of focusing on one's ethnicity and sex though, by then pointing out that Harris is "somebody, at a much higher level than the rest of us, but who wants to be seen as the talented, experienced, you know, expert, substantive policy person, partner to the president that she is. But, you know, I do think there has been some attacks that are beyond because of her identity."

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Nowhere in the response above did Psaki acknowledge legitimate reasons why the American people might take issue with the vice president. 

Kumar did follow up by pointing out her low approval ratings, asking "do you think that's spreading to the American people when they answer some of these polls and have an opinion about her?"

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll from last week showed Harris with a 28 percent approval rating. 

Psaki laughed, acknowledging "look, I think we've seen--it's not a secret Anita--we've seen some drop in approval ratings, you know across the board." Psaki went on to claim, though, that "we also have to be and we are very sober about the fact that there are some challenges, real challenges people are going through in this country and we're working to try to fix them."

It's worth noting that while this is hardly a surprising tactic from the White House, there have been polls showing women disapproving of Harris more than men. 

As Psaki herself acknowledged, they have indeed "seen some drop in approval ratings... across the board." We were told to expect poll number bumps with the passage of Biden's agenda items, such as with the infrastructure bill. However, as Spencer covered, a Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Sunday had Biden at a 41 percent approval rating, with 53 percent disapproving. 

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel also made similar claims last week on Tuesday's episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" As my own coverage of that detailed, Kimmel is himself regarded as a racist and a sexist.

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During the discussion, Psaki also volunteered that she's not always clear in her responses, when asked what her biggest mistake has been as press secretary. "I will say, nearly every week, or even every day, I leave that podium and I think 'I wish I would have said this in a more clear way. I wish I would have given this answer. I wish I would have known a little bit more about this particular topic."

She was also dismissive about the president being accessible to the American people, which involved some memorable answers there as well. 

In responding to claims that she was "too scripted," Psaki urged journalists to push for more access and claimed the issue "is misunderstood." She even touted Biden having what she considered to be numerous appearances where he takes questions. "It's just not accurate to suggest that he isn't accessible or doesn't answer questions." Without speaking to specifics, Psaki even threw former President Donald Trump under the bus and claimed Biden "has answered questions to twice as many times than President Trump did in this point in time."

Psaki was even more dismissive about Kumar pointing out Biden has not given many press conferences. "I think I have to say that's more of an issue related to the White House Press Corp, as it's their job to be... than it is of concern to the American public," Psaki said, as she went on to claim that the American people "have seen the president multiple times a week, they seem him speaking and providing updates, we put cabinet members, officials, the vice president just did a major interview today," as justification to claim "I think it would be hard for anyone to argue that we are not providing information to the public."

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Psaki later claimed that Biden "is an incredibly accessible person to his staff," after noting she sees him nearly every day, sometimes more than once a day," and emphasized that "he wants us to make sure we're on the same page," which is comical in a sense considering that that has not always been the case with this White House. 

While Psaki may indeed "feel very fortunate" that she has such access to the president, she doesn't see it as an issue that he isn't otherwise very accessible. 

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