Black women routinely comment on the way Sen. Kamala Harris is covered in the media since announcing her candidacy for president in 2019, but a study released by TIME’S UP Now highlights her treatment after securing the Democratic nomination for vice president.
Harris made history as the first Black woman and Asian woman to receive the nomination in American history. While she is not the first woman to hold this privilege thanks to Sarah Palin in 2008, Harris has been met with challenges presented by those who are unfairly categorized due to misogynoir: Black women.
In the data researchers observed Harris’ handling compared with two other vice presidential nominees, Sen. Tim Kaine and then Gov. Pence.
The study, released ahead of Wednesday’s debate between Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, revealed that a quarter of the media coverage around her announcement included harmful stereotypes and tropes. Two thirds or 61 percent of that coverage mentioned Harris’ race and gender, opposed to five percent for Kaine and Pence.
“When women, and especially women of color, run for office, they are subjected to a double standard that has nothing to do with their qualifications and everything to do with this country’s history of sexism and racism,” said Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Now. “It’s time for women to be judged on their merits — and for the media to take a critical look at their biased coverage.”
TIMES’S UP Now also found that Trump waged harsher attacks against Sen. Harris than Sen. Kaine in 2016. His lashing out rooted in the which the harmful “Angry Black Woman’ trope and fueled by birther conspiracy theories also hurled towards former President Barack Obama.
“Adjectives to describe Sen. Harris skewed more negative than those used to describe then-Governor Pence and Sen. Kaine. While Sen. Harris was labeled with sexist and racist language, such as “nasty,” “extreme,” “phony,” and “mean,” then-Gov. Pence and Sen. Kaine were both portrayed as “safe” and “experienced” choices, if somewhat uninspiring,” the report reads.
And 36 percent of media coverage around Harris focused on her ancestry, ignoring her personal and professional achievements, compared to five percent for Pence and Sen. Kaine.
“This report demonstrates how our broken political discourse can derail the political ambitions of women, and particularly Black women,” said Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama and a member of the board of directors of TIME’S UP Now. “These harmful words and actions matter, and we’re holding the media accountable.”
Harris and Pence are set to square off University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The debate will be moderated by USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page.