WaPo Quietly Purges Unflattering Anecdote from 2019 Kamala Harris Profile

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill, August 6, 2020. (Alex Wong/Pool via Reuters)

Editor’s Note: Following backlash, the Post has restored the original version of the article.

The Washington Post has quietly removed an unflattering anecdote from a June 2019 profile of Vice President Kamala Harris, explaining that the story was “repurposed and updated” ahead of the inauguration.

As first noted by Reason, the Post’s original profile of Harris — which was published on July 23, 2019 and highlighted the vice president’s close relationship with her sister — began with an anecdote in which Harris “was explaining to her sister, Maya, that campaigns are like prisons.”

Harris went on to explain that her prep for the Democratic debate in Miami was hectic, but still allowed her small reprieves like a walk on the beach with her husband or a morning SoulCycle class.

“That kind of stuff,” Harris, “which was about bringing a little normal to the days, that was a treat for me.”

Harris then adopted a mock British accent and joked her experience was similar to that of an inmate in a Dickensian prison.

“It’s a treat that a prisoner gets when they ask for, ‘A morsel of food please,'” Harris said while bursting into laughter. “‘And water! I just want wahtahhh….’Your standards really go out the f—ing window.”

As of January 11, however, that anecdote no longer appears in the profile, with the online version noting that “[t]his story has been updated from an earlier published version.” The revised profile opens with the noticeably softer, “[i]t is no wonder so many people turn to family members” in a political atmosphere “full of mercenaries with their own interests at heart.”

The Post’s communications manager told Reason that “we repurposed and updated some of our strong biographical pieces about both political figures” in the buildup to the Biden-Harris inauguration, and that the “original story remains available in print.”

The byline of features reporter Ben Terris, who originally wrote the piece, now features political reporter Chelsea Janes (“who has authored several fawning pieces about Harris this week,” Reason notes).

Terris did not respond to an email asking if he was aware that his original lede had been written out of the story.

Since Reason’s story, the Post has restored the original version of the story, and a spokesperson said “we should have kept both versions of the story on The Post’s site (the original and updated one), rather than redirecting to the updated version.”

During the Democratic primary, Harris was heavily criticized for her background as a prosecutor. “Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors,” California law professor Lara Bazelon wrote in the New York Times in January 2019.

Harris has since tried to recast herself as a progressive champion for the wrongly convicted and accused. In September, she told Jacob Blake — who recently admitted that he not only had a knife in his possession when he was shot by police, but also picked it up after dropping it during the initial struggle — that she was “proud” of him, according to Blake’s lawyer.

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