Some of the Democratic Party’s most powerful women met last month to develop a strategy for defending Vice President Kamala Harris and her chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, against a stream of bad press, Axios is reporting.
The host was Kiki McLean, a Democrat public affairs expert and former adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Those attending the meeting at McClean’s house in Washington, D.C., included: two former Democratic National Committee officials, Donna Brazile and Leah Daughtry; Stephanie Cutter, an adviser to President Joe Biden; former Hillary Clinton spokeswomen and Democrat strategists Adrienne Elrod and Karen Finney; Obama White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri; and Harris friend Minyon Moore, according to Axios.
The dinner meeting came after a Politico report revealed Harris’ office has been hit with low morale and diminished trust among aides and senior officials.
The news outlet reported on June 30 that it had conducted interviews with 22 current and former vice presidential aides, administration officials, and associates of Harris and Biden. The sources described a tense and at times dour office atmosphere.
“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses, and it’s an abusive environment,” said one person with direct knowledge of how Harris’ office is run. “It’s not a healthy environment and people often feel mistreated. It’s not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like s**t.”
Flournoy was targeted for causing much of the frustration, Politico noted.
And CNBC reported that Harris, under Flournoy’s watch, had not been returning phone calls to people who have considered themselves members of her inner circle.
A source familiar with the strategy meeting told Axios that attendees saw sexist overtones to the Harris coverage and discussed how they could “make sure the press knows this.” The Axios report did not single out any report by a specific media outlet.
“Many of us lived through the (Hillary) Clinton campaign, and want to help curb some of the gendered dynamics in press coverage that impacted HRC,” this source said. “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.”