NBC White House correspondent Peter Alexander caught flak Thursday for asking Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff if Republican criticisms of his wife, Vice President Kamala Harris, were motivated by racism or sexism.
Harris is making her first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border this week after months of backlash for avoiding the trip since being tapped as President Biden’s border czar. But in their discussion about the criticism, Alexander asked Emhoff if Harris was facing those kinds of “attacks” because of her background.
“You’re a husband. When you see the attacks, when you see the criticism, what do you think?” Alexander asked. He would later pose a more pointed follow-up, “As the first woman, black, South Asian vice president, do you think that your wife is treated differently because she’s a woman and a woman of color?”
“Probably, but so what?” Emhoff asked. “She has faced challenges as a groundbreaker her whole career. I think she said, at times, when you’re breaking barriers there’s breaking involved and breaking means you might get cut sometimes. But that’s OK, it’s worth it. Because she’s leaving a path for others.”
Alexander isn’t the first media figure to have suggested that criticisms of the vice president have little to do with policy but are tied to race and gender. Earlier this month, MSNBC guest host Zerlina Maxwell and journalist Anushay Hossain maintained that Harris wasn’t being given a fair shot because she’s a woman of color.
“Women and men aren’t assessed through the same lens, and that’s one thing we have to keep in mind whenever we’re talking about the vice president,” Houssain said, later adding, “But because she is a woman and a woman of color, the level of scrutiny that she is getting from both the left and the right is really off the charts.”
But Harris has not been completely shielded or excused by the media. She was widely panned after quipping to NBC’s Lester Holt that she has “hasn’t been to Europe” when he confronted her about not going to the border.
“And I haven’t been to Europe. I mean, I don’t understand the point you are making,” she replied, laughing.
“Cringeworthy,” CNN panelist Abby Phillip called the VP’s response.
Holt implied on Wednesday that his interview with Harris spurred her to finally book a flight to the border.