Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts State-Sponsored News on Democratic VP Pick Senator Kamala Harris
State-Sponsored News on Democratic VP Pick Senator Kamala Harris

State-Sponsored News on Democratic VP Pick Senator Kamala Harris

August 12, 2020

Post by Rachel Chernaskey

Foreign state-sponsored media outlets published a number of stories mentioning Senator Kamala Harris in light of former Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement on August 11 that the senator would be his running mate in the 2020 election. Harris, after dropping out of the race early on, has received substantially less coverage in state-sponsored outlets over the past year compared to other candidates like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

However, in FIE 2020’s initial assessment of RT and Sputnik News coverage of 2020 presidential candidates, Harris received the fourth-most mentions and saw more negative mentions than positive. Coverage of the Biden-Harris ticket includes a mix of neutral and negative reporting about Harris and further negative coverage of Biden, who has received more negative coverage than positive across the board and has been consistently denigrated in Russian state outlets.

RT’s first story on the VP announcement highlights both Biden’s “advanced age and apparent cognitive decline” and details from Harris’s prosecutorial record that “may draw scorn from progressives.” Keeping with RT’s previous anti-establishment/“election rigging” theme, another RT story titled “Kamala Harris got ‘destroyed’ by Tulsi Gabbard in Democrat debates, dropped out before primaries – and now might be president” indulges conspiracy, playing up the notion that Harris is “the Democrats’ actual candidate for the top job.”

Other stories that mention the announcement include articles “Trump launches scathing ad on ‘phony’ Kamala Harris as Democrats are torn over Biden’s VP pick” and “At least it wasn’t Susan Rice: Democrats could have made a worse running mate pick for Biden,” headlines painting Harris negatively. An article published on August 12 titled “‘Trust no one & have fun’: Sarah Palin embraced by libs as she comes out with words of encouragement for Biden’s VP pick Harris” highlights President Trump’s having “unleashed scathing criticism on Harris, mocking her poor performance in the Democratic primaries” and other GOP leaders’ criticisms of Harris. Meanwhile Sputnik News, unlike RT, posted just one English-language article covering the announcement with no discernible bias.

Iran’s PressTV published two articles on the selection of Senator Harris. The first was a short neutral story covering the announcement, while another titled “Trump campaign labels Harris as Biden’s ‘liberal handler’” covers President Trump and his campaign’s criticisms of Harris.

In a divergence from its generally neutral coverage of specific 2020 presidential candidates, China’s Global Times published a particularly negative story about Harris’s selection as running mate. The article, titled “Harris as Biden’s running mate heightens ‘China-bash competition’ as election nears,” claims Harris’s “harsh stance on China will likely escalate the ‘who-is-the-toughest-on-China competition’ between the ‘donkey and elephant’ in the 2020 US presidential race.” It also notes that Harris’s “latest attack” concerned an AP investigation on China’s treatment of Uighur minorities, which the Global Times claims was “based on flawed statistics, wrong calculation method, misleading figures and untrustworthy interviewees.”

Given her new position in the Biden campaign, Harris’s mentions in state-sponsored outlets will only increase. Her previous foreign policy stances—unfavorable for both Russia and China—and state-sponsored outlets’ negative takes on Biden may mean that Harris’s negative coverage will continue to grow as well.