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Harris allies convened a 'crisis dinner' to strategize defending the VP against negative stories about her office, report says


kamala harris
Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks at the start of a roundtable discussion on voting rights for people living with disabilities in her ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on July 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. "If we are truly a democracy, it means we have a representative government that reflects the experience and life of all the people in the country and I think we have a lot more work to do," Harris said.
  • Top female Democratic operatives held a dinner to strategize on defending VP Harris, Axios reports.
  • Numerous news stories have detailed chaos and dysfunction in Harris' office.
  • Many Harris allies argue she faces undue scrutiny and criticism because she's a powerful woman of color.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A powerhouse group of female Democratic strategists and communications professionals recently convened a "crisis dinner" to strategize on how to best defend Vice President Kamala Harris against a barrage of negative news coverage, Axios reports.

The dinner, organized by Democratic communications strategist Kiki McLean, included former White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri, top Biden adviser Stephanie Cutter, former 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign spokeswomen Karen Finney and Adrienne Elrod, strategist Minyon Moore, and former top DNC officials Donna Brazile and Leah Daughtry, according to Axios.

The crisis dinner was not focused on changing the workplace culture of the VP's office, but on how the women could use their communications expertise to defend Harris and her chief of staff Tina Flournoy from unflattering stories and "be supportive from the outside."

"It was less about how do you sort out the infrastructure [of Harris' operation], and it was more how can this group contribute to make sure that not only is her team making the most of this moment - as the first woman of color in the White House - but how can we help from the outside?," one attendee told Axios.

The group of women at the dinner discussed how to flip the script on the criticism Harris has faced for her handling of difficult assignments she's taken on as VP, particularly immigration.

Long-simmering discord in Harris' office and tensions between her staff and Biden's boiled over in an explosive June report from Politico. The story, which drew on interviews with 22 sources, including current and former Harris staffers, detailed poor morale, dysfunction, communication breakdowns within the vice president's office.

"We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day. What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I'm like 'welcome to the club,'" Harris' chief spokeswoman Symone Sanders told Politico in response.

Axios previously reported that many officials in Bidenworld, well-known for maintaining an ultra-disciplined and leakproof press operation, privately refer to Harris' office as a "s---show."

Insider's Robin Bravender spoke with 12 former Harris staffers who worked under her in California and Washington who described a toxic workplace, a culture of paranoia, and pervasive burnout accompanied by high staff turnover among those working for a highly demanding and often tough boss.

One former Harris staffer, who sought therapy for "on-the-job abuse" after working for Harris, told Insider that she sent the Politico story to her therapist with a note: "Rarely in life are we publicly vindicated."

Read more: Ex-Kamala Harris staffers have bad memories of a toxic culture in her past offices and are texting each other about it

Top officials from the White House and from Biden's operation have also publicly stepped up to defend Harris, an unusual dynamic so early into an administration.

Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, and Cedric Richmond, a senior advisor, previously defended Harris and her office's operation to Axios, with Richmond charging that Harris was the victim of "a whisper campaign designed to sabotage her."

Many Harris supporters and allies have argued that Harris faces disproportionate and unduly harsh criticism rooted in sexism because she is a woman of color in the second most powerful job in the United States.

"Many of us lived through the Clinton campaign, and want to help curb some of the gendered dynamics in press coverage that impacted HRC," a source told Axios. "It was like: 'We've seen this before.' It's subtle. But when things aren't going well for a male politician, we ask very different questions, and they're not held to account the way a woman leader is."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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