Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris has a favorite story she likes to tell about her childhood, most recently in Elle Magazine. The article begins with the anecdote: Harris was attending a civil rights march in Oakland, California as a toddler. She fell out of her stroller, and,
“‘My mother tells the story about how I’m fussing,and she’s like, ‘Baby, what do you want? What do you need?’ And I just looked at her and I said, ‘Fweedom.’”
The story also appears in Harris’s 2010 book “Smart on Crime” as well as her book published in 2019 titled “The Truths We Hold.” Yet it sounded strangely familiar to some people this time around, and sure enough, it seems that the tale is oddly similar to a story Rev. Martin Luther King related in his famous interview published in Playboy a half-century ago. During the interview, King recalled an incident:
“I never will forget a moment in Birmingham when a white policeman accosted a little Negro girl, seven or eight years old, who was walking in a demonstration with her mother. “‘What do you want?’ the policeman asked her gruffly, and the little girl looked him straight in the eye and answered, ‘Fee-dom.’ She couldn’t even pronounce it, but she knew. It was beautiful! Many times when I have been in sorely trying situations, the memory of that little one has come into my mind, and has buoyed me.”
Now Harris is being mocked on social media and by conservative pundits for her apparently fake and stolen story.
- I doubt that King’s story was true either. Like Jimmy Carter’s infamous anecdote about daughter Amy’s observations on nuclear arms policy, politicians have been putting cute and too-perfect words in kids mouths since the beginning of time. Maybe King’s version was an urban legend. The civil rights leader was not immune from using a good parable to help his cause.
- Nobody seems to want to give Harris the benefit of the doubt, but I will: she could well have been told this story by her parents, and they were the ones stealing King’s story. I doubt that she would remember it herself, if it had happened. Though no one will believe her if she says so, it seems plausible that she wasn’t aware of the King story. Heck, I read that interview, and I don’t remember it. (Though I think my reaction when I read about “Fee-dom” would still have been, “Yeah, sure, MLK. Tell me another.”)
- If, as many seem to assume, Harris is making stuff up to pander to the crowd, why fixate on this episode? We all know, or should, that the woman is shallow, has no core, and that saying whatever she thinks will endear herself to the most people at the moment is her defining characteristic. As Julie sang, “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly”: Kamala’s gotta make stuff up to pretend she’s something she’s not for the gullible, the naive, the hopeful and the blind. This latest example doesn’t tell us anything we already don’t know. Just point out the similarities between the stories, and move on.
- But only Fox News among the major networks seems to think this episode is newsworthy. The only newspaper so far covering it is the Washington Times, and on the web its Breitbart, The Daily Caller, The Daily Wire and the other usual suspects. After four years where every Twitter typo or inappropriate word was week-long fodder for mainstream media Trump-bashing, after trivial Trump hyperbole like his boast about the size of his Inauguration crowd was cited over and over again as eternally damning, after non-lies were routinely added to the absurd running lists maintained by the Washington Post and others (From Nov. 5, 2020: “Democrat officials never believe they could win this election. Honestly, I really believe that. That’s why they did the mail-in ballots where there’s tremendous corruption and fraud going on.” Not a lie, and I think his “belief” was spot on), suddenly a Harris whopper on par with Elizabeth Warren’s claim of Native American heritage is shrugged off as no big deal. It isn’t a big deal, but what’s the standard? Obviously the standard is “Protect Democrats, and look for ways to denigrate Republicans.”
- Imagine if Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin—heck, imagine if Joe Biden had recycled another politician’s anecdote—wait, he did that, didn’t he? But back when Biden outright plagiarized a British politician’s life story, the news media was a) practicing something closer to journalism than it is today and b) was helping out another Democrat, Michael Dukakis. Harris, however, is not merely a Democrat but a female Democrat of color.She has a “Get Out of Embarrassment Free” card.
- The Washington Post Factchecker could prove me wrong by exploring the “Fweedom” trail, but I expect that Kamala Harris will have to proclaim she is the Lizard Queen before the mainstream media shows any concern about her veracity.