NYT Hails Feminist Myth of 'Interrupted' Sen. Kamala Harris

July 8th, 2017 12:26 PM

New York Times reporter Matt Flegenheimer celebrated the Democratic Party’s latest 2020 hope with some newly minted feminist mythology included: “As Democrats Drift, The Expectations Rise for a Rookie Senator.” The online headline: “Senator, (Un)Interrupted: Kamala Harris’s Rise Among Democrats.”

The Times is prolonging the opportunist feminist myth that Harris was a victim of sexist interruptions by Republicans (never mind that Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is interrupted by Democratic congressmen at hearings without any handwringing from the feminist left).

The history of the story editing on Newsdiffs.org reveals how enamored the headline writers were of the feminist angle before deciding against it for the print version (though it’s retained online).

Senator, (Un)Interrupted: Kamala Harris’s Rise Among Democrats

Senator, Un(Interrupted): Kamala Harris’s Rise Among Democrats

Senator Kamala Harris’s Voice Is Amplified by Interruptions

Senator, Un(Interrupted): Kamala Harris’s Rise Among Democrats

Flegenheimer wrote:

The casting call came early -- the first of many unwelcome interruptions for Kamala Harris since November -- consuming the Los Angeles nightclub where she was supposed to be celebrating an uncomplicated Senate victory.

With the polls closed in nearly every other corner of the country, the giant TV above the dance floor left little doubt: Donald J. Trump was almost certainly going to be president. A vacancy-- standard-bearer of the Democratic Party, or at least one of them -- had come open four to eight years ahead of schedule.

And people had questions.


Less than eight months later, California’s very junior senator has emerged as the latest iteration of a bipartisan archetype: the Great Freshman Hope, a telegenic object of daydreaming projection -- justified or not -- for a party adrift and removed from executive power.

“Do we retreat or do we fight?” she thundered in Los Angeles that evening. “I say we fight.”

Like the Senate newcomers Barack Obama or Marco Rubio before her, Ms. Harris -- a 52-year-old former prosecutor with a profane streak, a lawyerly aversion to “false choices” and an affection for the rapper Too Short -- has insisted that national aspirations are far from her mind.

Like those men, she has not exactly ruled out the possibility, either.

Unlike those men, she is not a man, a fact that has figured prominently in her introduction to mass audiences in a recurring (and highly rated) television series: Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing Into Possible Trump Ties to Russia.

Twice recently, Ms. Harris’s pointed questions and interjections during long-winded witness testimony have prompted uncommon interruptions from Republican colleagues, John McCain of Arizona and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee chairman, urging her to let the officials answer.

In the outsize fallout, her supporters have questioned whether a white male senator would have been confronted the same way.

“There are times,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, “when men don’t like women who are smarter than them.”

Flegenheimer, who set up left-wing Sen. Elizabeth Warren for glory in a piece in February, managed to cultivate another Democratic heroine in Sen. Harris, even spinning his own snub by Harris to her advantage:

In one such nod to rookie humility, she declined to be interviewed for this article, in keeping with an apparent policy against participating in profiles with major publications at this point.


Ms. Harris’s brushes with national attention predate her Senate election, with a notable cameo from President Obama in 2013. After an event then, he was compelled to apologize after telling a group of Democrats that, in addition to being “brilliant,” “dedicated” and “tough,” Ms. Harris “also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general in the country.”


Ms. Harris has taken particular care to make a foil of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in person or otherwise, and is eager to seize on immigration and criminal justice issues as her signatures.


But for all her airtime during such gatherings, Ms. Harris has worked behind the scenes to curb any temptation to be overzealous in the inquiry, according to the committee’s top Democrat, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who said he had turned to her often for advice because he had never run a major investigation before.

Flegenheimer sold Harris as an ace fundraiser for Democrats.

A similar message signed by Ms. Harris for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was among the most lucrative email pitches of the year, according to the committee, where Ms. Harris is already approaching the top tier of sought-after fund-raisers.

Still, he noted, she’s not quite left enough for more ravenous left-wing Democrats.

And so far, at least, some of Mr. Sanders’s supporters are not sold on Ms. Harris, who at times disappointed liberals in her statewide roles with a reputation for excess caution. Others are simply wary of any politician promoted too heavily by the party establishment, especially after the campaign of Hillary Clinton, for whom Ms. Harris’s sister, Maya, worked as a top adviser.

Flegenheimer ended with this bit of nonsense, as if to shoehorn in yet another reference to the myth of Harris being constantly targeted with interruptions.

Ms. Harris reunited with the “Pod Save America” hosts last week at the Capitol, where they introduced her at an outdoor rally to oppose the Senate health care bill.

For a few moments, she waited patiently for her turn, posing for cellphone pictures with well-wishers, smiling broadly at the side of the stage, making room after Senator Cory A. Booker of New Jersey sidled up to join in the photography, too.

When she reached the microphone, Ms. Harris moved quickly to familiar turf: “Remember, I’m a prosecutor,” she began.

She shifted for a moment in her heels. A stirring came from the edge of the crowd.

And in a flash, it had happened again -- another interruption at the Capitol, perhaps more welcome than usual.

“That’s what I’m saying,” a woman hollered back, parroting her this time. “I’m a prosecutor.”