On Friday, during an outdoor town hall in Londonderry, New Hampshire, a man asked 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) about what she plans to do in order “to diminish the mentally retarded actions” of President Trump.
As the audience cheered and applauded, Harris laughed and replied: “Well said. Well said. I plan to win this election, I’ll tell you that.”
Following a video of the exchange landing on social media, Harris was hit with intense criticism. Self-described “disabled healthcare advocate” Kendally Brown posted the video to Twitter, and wrote:
During a rally, a voter referred to Trump’s actions as “mentally retarded”, prompting @KamalaHarris to laugh and say, “well said, well said.” I hate amplifying content I know the right will seize on and twist for their own hypocritical gain, but this hurts my heart. #CripTheVote
Using “retarded” as a slur and an insult is never, EVER “well said”, @KamalaHarris, no matter who it’s against and no matter the larger point being made. It’s ALWAYS a betrayal of the disability community. We need—and expect—better from you. #CripTheVote
Brown went on to blast “right-wing” reporters who would retweet the video, and targeted The Daily Wire specifically:
ATTENTION RIGHTWING REPORTERS RETWEETING THIS. Don’t bother retweeting me to attack @KamalaHarris. I’ll just block you so my tweet doesn’t show up on your timeline. I refuse to be used as a token disabled pawn by a bunch of hypocrites supporting an ableist monster … if you want to amplify the video without amplifying the Daily Wire reporter (since they are the wooooorst), here it is!
Some on Twitter echoed Brown’s disappointment in Harris:
“My brother has down syndrome and has a heart of gold compared to Donald J Trump and is a better man. Kamala Harris you lost my vote,” tweeted @scamihorn.
@BaileyPittipat wrote: “It’s a term that doesn’t fit the differing scale of intelligence found in humans. Or the disabilities that underly. It is a slur. And it’s meant to bully. An apology is owed. Properly said, Trump is a malignant narcissist of limited cognitive skills.”
A smaller contingent of people defended Harris:
“I understand your point & think she will make this right & apologize. But as much as this terminology shouldn’t be used, there was clearly a language barrier. She may have been reinforcing the IDEA the man was conveying — that Trump POLICIES are dumb (for lack of a better word),” tweeted @sbex530
@ifawomandidit wrote: “I’m a Warren supporter but damn it people make mistakes. She either didn’t hear it or she was trying to appease a voter move on. We should all move on from this.”
On Saturday, Harris was asked about the remark by CBS News’ Caitlin Huey-Burns.
It’s an incredibly offensive term, and as someone who has a long-standing relationship of advocacy for our disability community – in fact, I have a whole policy proposal on it that I have been working on for quite some time that we rolled out weeks ago – it’s offensive, and you would think that in the year 2019, people would have a much better understanding of how hurtful a term like that can be, but also the history behind it, which is a history of really ignoring the needs and the realities and the capacity of our disability community.
Huey-Burns asked: “You didn’t correct him though. Did you hear him?”
Harris responded: “I heard him talk about the other stuff, and then that came later, and it was not something that I really heard or processed or, you know, in any way condone, that’s for sure.”
Harris made a similar comment to NBC News.
Also on Saturday, Harris made the following comment on Twitter:
Harris’ plan regarding the disabled was released on August 29.
Sen. Kamala Harris is currently struggling in the Democratic primary race. After rocketing to the top-tier following her debate confrontation with former Vice President Joe Biden in June, Harris has tumbled back down to 7.2% support, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
Harris is currently in a distant fourth place behind Biden at 29.7%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 18%, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at 17.5%.