White House communications director Kate Bedingfield reportedly snarked that Vice President Kamala Harris was to blame for her public missteps and a toxic work environment in her office, a new book claims.
Details from the forthcoming tome “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns, were reported by Politico Tuesday as Harris’ office contends with an exodus of 10 staffers since this past summer. On Monday, Nancy McEldowney, the VP’s national security adviser, became the latest to step aside.
Bedingfeld disavowed her reported remarks in an email to Politico.
“The fact that no one working on this book bothered to call to fact check this unattributed claim tells you what you need to know,” she wrote. “Vice President Harris is a force in this administration and I have the utmost respect for the work she does every day to move the country forward.”
The book reports that cracks began to form in the administration’s united front last June after Harris’ trip to Mexico and Guatemala to discuss the migration crisis. During the visit, Harris was roundly criticized for her response to NBC News anchor Lester Holt’s question about when she would visit the US-Mexico border.
“And I haven’t been to Europe,” the VP responded sarcastically to Holt’s statement that she had not yet visited the frontier. “And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
Weeks after Harris returned, Politico published the first report of strife in Harris’ office, a story which Martin and Burns say irked Biden.
During an Oval Office meeting with senior staff, they write, the president warned that if “he found that any of them was stirring up negative stories about the vice president … they would quickly be former staff.”
At the same time, the book says, Harris was becoming increasingly perturbed by the unpromising policy tasks she was given.
“One senator close to her, describing Harris’s frustration level as ‘up in the stratosphere,’ lamented that Harris’s political decline was a ‘slow-rolling Greek tragedy,’” the authors write.
“Her approval numbers were even lower than Biden’s, and other Democrats were already eyeing the 2024 race if Biden declined to run,” they add.
As for the two principals, Martin and Burns report that Harris and Biden have a “friendly but not close” personal relationship, and added their weekly lunches “lacked a real depth of personal and political intimacy.”
The authors also write that Harris was wary of being pigeonholed by the White House, telling aides “in frank terms that she did not want to be restricted to a few subjects mainly associated with women and Black Americans.”
One initiative the administration did tap Harris to lead was its effort to pass election reform, which went down to defeat in the Senate earlier this year after moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema declined to change the chamber’s legislative filibuster rule.
Harris blamed the White House for the failure, Martin and Burns report.
“How was she supposed to communicate clearly about voting-rights legislation, Harris asked West Wing aides, when the president would not even say that he supported changing the Senate rules to open the path for a bill?” the book says.
The vice president’s office declined to comment to Politico about the book.
The authors also describe first lady Jill Biden’s dissatisfaction with her husband’s pick of Harris as a running mate after Harris attacked her husband during a June 2019 presidential debate over his stand on school busing.
“Speaking in confidence with a close adviser to her husband’s campaign, the future first lady posed a pointed question,” the book says. “There are millions of people in the United States, she began. Why, she asked, do we have to choose the one who attacked Joe?”