New information has emerged since our previous update on the Mexico City fiasco, which ensued when a woman was wrongfully introduced as a Univision journalist before proceeding to egregiously flatter Vice President Kamala Harris. Since then, the White House has issued a statement and we’ve completed a full transcript review, after which we can safely conclude that there is trickery afoot.
Per the eyewitness account of Univision’s Mexico City correspondent Jésica Zermeño, Vice President Kamala Harris’ communications team was fully informed as to the proper affiliations of María Fernanda Reyes, both before and after the press conference:
PAULINA SODI: By the way- at Vice President Kamala Harris' most recent press conference, a woman passed herself off as a Univision reporter in order to ask (Harris) a question, and also flatter her. Jésica Zermeño was there, and tells us what happened.
JÉSICA ZERMEÑO: Thank you, Paulina. It seems that what happened was clearly a mix-up. María Fernanda Reyes is part of the Latino entrepreneurship program at Stanford University. We interviewed her several hours prior for our story on Noticiero Univision regarding the vice president’s visit to this country. We then sat together at the press conference. Harris’ communications team approached us both, we signed up in order to ask the vice president a question at this press conference, and then what happened, happened.
SYMONE SANDERS: Our next question will come from Maria Fernanda. At Univision.
ZERMEÑO: She was introduced as part of Univision when in fact she is not. And we immediately made that known to the vice president’s press team. As soon as the press conference ended, we both approached them and told them that there was a mix-up. They offered us to make a change on the transcript of this press conference (regarding) the name, and to clarify what had happened. Obviously, they apologized and it all ended up being a mix-up which seems to have happened when the question-and-answer list was drafted. But it is necessary to clarify that it is (factually) incorrect that Maria Fernanda Reyes is a part of Univision, and we conveyed that to the vice president's team.
Based on Zermeño’s account on Tuesday night, Reyes was known to Univision, she was onsite for her own interview, and there was an attempt to disclose after the botched introduction.
The following morning, María Fernanda Reyes appeared on Univision’s Despierta América. In a contentious 13-minute interview (view full transcript here), Reyes laid out her own version of the events (click "Expand" to view transcript).
MARIA FERNANDA REYES: When we walked in, I introduced myself and in fact, I showed my badge that said “Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative”. And we went in right behind the reporters, Kamala’s staff seated me right next to Univision’s people, and they came up to me and told me that they wanted me to ask a question. At that time, I made clear that in fact I am from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative as well as the Women Economic Forum. That our chairperson had just met directly with Kamala.
REYES: in fact, I didn’t even say Univision. Her (Harris’) team were the ones that said ``Univision” at the end of the press conference…
MARIA ANTONIETA COLLINS: But who mentions Univision when you sign up? How do you sign up? How do they- the White House- how do they come to the conclusion that you are a Univision journalist?
REYES: No. As Stanford...as Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship initiative and as Women Economic Forum, who had just signed up, and then they asked me to sit there, I was next to Univision’s reporters, they were also asked if they wanted to ask a question.
COLLINS: Well of course, that’s their job. That’s their job, María Fernanda.
REYES: Of course.
REYES: And it was made clear before the question. In other words, when they approached me, I believe Univision cameras show when they came to ask me whether I wanted to ask a question- I was wearing the Stanford Latino badge and I showed it to them. And I said, “I’m Stanford Latino”.
COLLINS: You are aware, María Fernanda…
REYES: And then, they incorrectly introduced me (as being) from Univision…
COLLINS: That much is clear, you’ve already told us so. Are you aware…
REYES: What I couldn’t clarify at the end is that both the Univision reporter and I went and talked to the same communications person and we told them, as a matter of clarification, that Maria Fernanda Reyes is Stanford Latino and in fact she took notes and said, “don’t worry, this will be corrected in the White House transcript, it was our mistake”.
COLLINS: What were you doing then, if you could tell us again, at the site of the press conference?
REYES: Yes- because, precisely, part of the meetings were (held) there. And so I was waiting for your team, which was editing the interview in my room, to come up because there were issues with the elevators, et cetera.
So both Zermeño’s and Reyes’ stories seem to dovetail. Per their narrative there was a botched introduction, they both rushed to the vice president’s staff after the event in order to clarify, and they were promised a swift clarification.
But in a statement provided to the Daily Caller, the White House later said that
“This person misrepresented herself to both Univision and to the Vice President’s staff. She misrepresented herself to the Vice President’s staff as part of Univision’s crew, which was properly credentialed for the event. This person underwent the same level of security screening and was never a security threat to the VP”.
And this is where things diverge. This narrative is not consistent with a pre and post-event disclosure, and insists on an Imposter Theory that even Univision debunked after Reyes’ interview.
“Univision News Senior Correspondent interviewed Maria Fernando Reyes this morning,” Joe Zamora, senior vice president of communications at Univision, told the Caller. “As stated before, she is in no way affiliated to Univision. She made the clarification in the interview. She is part of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative and attended the event as a guest. They introduced her incorrectly and both her and the person that introduced her failed to make the necessary correction.”
Univision reported the Imposter Theory, then backed off after hearing from Reyes and Zermeño. The White House insists on the Imposter Theory, claiming that Reyes represented herself Univision crew. One the one hand, Reyes claims to have shown ID on multiple occasions. But on the other, she did enter the venue with Univision’s crew, which had just been in her room while editing the earlier interview with Zermeño, wherein she informed Zermeño of the question that she intended to ask the vice president. Something doesn’t add up here, but it is clear that Reyes was a known entity to Univision. After reviewing the video and transcripts, it appears that neither Univision nor The White House (or even Reyes, for that matter) have been fully forthcoming with regard to what happened in the press conference fiasco.
I leave you with this tidbit of information from Reyes’ interview: is it common practice for the White House to curate a question and answer list prior to press conferences?