Reports of an unhappy working environment in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office are ringing a bell with former staffers, who have described similar experiences dating back more than a decade, according to a new report.
According to Business Insider, Harris alumni have been buzzing about a Politico report last month that described the Veep’s office as “chaotic” with a “tense and at times dour” atmosphere. One source quoted by Politico described it as a place where “people feel treated like s—.”
“So many people recognized themselves in it, or recognized treatment they had seen or treatment they had heard about and dismissed,” one former staffer told Business Insider, adding that they had sent a link to the story to their therapist with a note that read: “Rarely in life are we publicly vindicated.”
Business Insider’s story cited interviews with 12 former Harris staffers about the work environment during her stints as San Francisco’s district attorney (an office she held from 2004 to 2011), California’s attorney general (2011 to 2017), and a US senator (2017 to 2021).
Some of the staffers recalled Harris as “unpredictable and at times demeaning.” One former aide to Harris when she was the Golden State’s AG described “a sense of paranoia in that office, that you never knew when she was going to snap at you.”
The report cites several sources who recall Harris calling the office and hanging up on staffers if she did not get the information she wanted quickly. Other former staffers said Harris, who typically wanted to be briefed on issues three days in advance, would move up scheduled briefings without telling her aides and berate them when they did not have the information.
“She would move that time slot up so you would be within the 72-hour window without the materials,” recalled one former aide. At that point, Harris would either agree to be briefed anyway, forcing staffers to brief “somebody who’s angry or thinks you’ve failed,” or refuse, adding “a lot of verbal abuse about why she wasn’t prepared.”
While the Politico story largely points the finger at Harris chief of staff Tina Flournoy for the hostile environment, the staffers cited by Business Insider say the buck stops with the VP herself.
“[L]ol that everyone is pointing to her [Flournoy] when it’s obvi KDH,” one former aide texted another in response to the Politico story, referring to Harris by her initials.
Harris is not without her defenders. Jeff Tsai, a former top aide to Harris in the California AG’s office, told Business Insider that “all of the paces she put us through were the same paces she put herself through.” Another veteran of Harris’ AG tenure dismissed the criticism as “gendered” and an example of “the idea that strong women are bitches and she’s just another one.”
Another former aide in the same office told the outlet that everyone who worked there “loved” Harris, but also were “so stressed out that they were making themselves sick. Is that toxic? I don’t know.”
Several top Biden administration officials have gone on the record to defend Harris, with White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond decrying what he called a “whisper campaign” against the vice president. Other outlets have published criticism of Harris from anonymous sources. Days after the Politico report dropped, Axios quoted several White House officials as using the word “s—show” to describe Harris’ office.
“The Vice President and her office are focused on the Biden-Harris Administration’s agenda to build an economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down,” Harris spokesperson Sabrina Singh told Business Insider in a statement Wednesday.
“To making sure racial equity is at the core of everything the Administration does, to combatting the existential threat of climate change, and to continue protecting the American people from the Covid-19 pandemic.”