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The Saga of Kamala Harris' 'Equity' Comments on Relief Aid Continues

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Vice President Kamala Harris, as Sarah covered over the weekend, certainly made some eyebrow remarks on Friday when it comes to federal aid following Hurricane Ian. While at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum, the vice president claimed "we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity, understanding that we fight for equality, but we also need to fight for equity." She also highlighted in her remarks focusing on helping "communities of color."

Those remarks were further addressed on the Sunday shows, when FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell was making the rounds. 

One exchange took place on CBS' "Face the Nation," when host Margaret Brennan confronted Criswell about Harris' remarks. Referring to a previous segment that featured Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Brennan told the FEMA administrator "I'd like you to clarify them because Senator Scott called on FEMA to be colorblind, really insinuating, you're not."

Initially, Criswell tried to dance around the question, as she talked about how she "was on the ground Friday and Saturday" and "assessing the damage personally and talking to survivors." 

"There are a lot of people that are going to need assistance as a result of this. And one of the things that I have known, and I have experienced responding to other disasters is that there are people that often have a hard time accessing our programs, there's barriers to our program. And one of our focus areas since I've been in office is to make sure that we're removing those barriers," Criswell went on to say. 

Her remarks became even less clear from there. "So, these people that need our help the most are going to be able to access the help that we offer. I know that the Vice President and the President, they share the same values. And again, I was on the ground Friday and Saturday, and I committed to the governor then that we are going to provide assistance to all Floridians because we know that there are people that are just completely devastated from the storm. We are going to be there to support everybody that needs help," she continued.

Brennan followed up by repeating Sen. Scott's charges and asked "how do you again respond to that?"

Criswell still failed to provide an adequate answer, though. "That again, Margaret, our programs support everybody. I would say I believe some of the things the Vice President was talking about are the long-term recovery and rebuilding these communities to be able to withstand disasters, so they can have less impact. We're going to support all communities. I committed that to the governor, I commit to you right here that all Floridians are going to be able to get the help that is available to them through our programs," she said.

A tweet from Face the Nation indicates there was some acknowledgement from Criswell.

The segment between Brennan and Sen. Scott did not reference the remarks from the vice president until Scott referred to them when he was pressed to criticize a Truth social post made by former President Donald Trump that referred to former Secretary of Treasury Elaine Chao as "Coco Chow" and remarks made by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) about Democrats having it out for Republicans:

SEN. SCOTT: But I think what we got to do is we got to bring everybody together. I'd also say that would vice versa. Harris said yesterday that our day before yesterday that, you know if you if you have a different skin color, you're going to get relief. 

MARGARET BRENNAN:  That's not what the vice president said. She talked about equity and the problem within FEMA. But I'm specifically talking about Marjorie Taylor Greene.

SEN. SCOTT:  No, no, no. Wait, wait, Margaret. Margaret, let's make sure.  FEMA has to be colorblind. FEMA has to provide support to everybody. Now, I here's what I here's what I'll tell you, I believe that we've got to do -- President Trump has talked about this unbelievable spending that's causing inflation hurting the poorest families. I grew up in a poor family. I watched him play should hurt my mom. We've gotten a house, watch how we spend this money. I know, you're talking about.

Sen. Scott reminded Brennan that Trump often uses nicknames. He also responded by pointing out he had not seen Rep. Greene's remarks. What he did push, though, was the need to focus on Harris' remarks, by emphasizing that "it's also not helpful what the vice president says when she when she thinks that famous gonna treat people differently based on their skin color," also emphasizing how "we need to bring people together."

As one can see from the excerpt above between Brennan and Scott, the host tried to provide some cover for the vice president. Even more cover came on Monday from PolitiFact, as our friends at Twitchy highlighted

The fact-check in question came from Jeff Cercone, who was fact-checking Sen. Scott's remarks, specifically on how the senator pointed out Harris said relief would be "faster" if you "have a different skin color," and responded to Brennan by saying "that's exactly what [Harris] meant" when the host gave him pushback. 

Cercone gave Sen. Scott a rating of "False." He published the fact-check even before hearing back from Sen. Scott's office, which he claimed they did reach out to. In his ruling he mentioned that "Harris said no such thing in a response to a question that touched on several topics, including Hurricane Ian, climate change policy and disparities in who is most harmed by climate change and extreme weather."

Statements from Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates are included in the fact-check:

Andrew Bates, White House deputy press secretary, called the claims Scott and others made "inaccurate."

"The vice president was addressing a different subject: long-term climate resilience investments passed with strong bipartisan support," Bates said in a statement to PolitiFact.

Bates said Harris had already responded to the first part of the question that specifically mentioned Hurricane Ian by "emphasizing that we are urgently responding to all Americans hurt by the storm."

"She had explicitly moved on to answering the second question — on ‘long-term goals’ for how to ‘address the climate crisis in the states’ — by mentioning the long-term investments that Congress, with Republican support, specifically set aside for communities that are vulnerable because of a lack of infrastructure resources," the statement said.

A look at Cercone's past fact-checks for the site show he has a history of covering for the Biden administration.  

Bates not only gleefully tweeted the fact-check, but also quote tweeted a previous post from Twitchy. 

Users still chimed in to let him know how they felt, though.

As useless as the segments with Criswell may have been, Fox News' Peter Doocy was able to get a response from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, showing at the very least how poorly it bodes for the vice president that her remarks constantly need to be cleaned up. 

"We are committed to quickly getting resources to all communities impacted, period, full stop.  But we also know that some people, particularly in lower-income communities, have a hard time accessing that help.  That’s why this administration has also made it a priority to remove barriers and ensure that everyone, regardless of their ZIP Code, can access federal resources.  And that’s what she was talking about," Jean-Pierre said aboard Air Force One on Monday en route to Puerto Rico. 


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