Kamala Harris Speaks About Hurricane Relief and 'Equity' - Then DeSantis Administration Posts the Facts


CORRECTION, Oct. 6, 2022: It was unclear what Vice President Kamala Harris was referring to when she said, “We have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity.” While many thought she was speaking about hurricane relief, the White House and others said her comments were in response to the second part of the lengthy question she was asked and dealt with disparities in climate change impact. “The vice president was addressing a different subject: long-term climate resilience investments passed with strong bipartisan support,” Andrew Bates, White House deputy press secretary, told PolitiFact. Because of this, The Western Journal has revised the headline and some of the text in this article. A video of the full exchange has been added below, and the White House transcript can be found here.

I think we, as a nation, have firmly established that Vice President Kamala Harris should be nowhere near a disaster area.

I know, we originally thought the former California senator and presidential hopeful would be a backstop for a president clearly experiencing the diminishing returns of age. Then she was assigned a vague role in stopping the administration’s first major hiccup, the border crisis. Except this didn’t involve visiting the border, but instead dealing with the “root causes” of illegal migration.

Those slippery root causes have yet to be found, goshdarnit — although you’ll be happy to know that Harris used her ill-defined role in dealing with the crisis to get a handful of companies to pledge to invest trifling amounts of money in several Central American countries, including yogurt giant Chobani and mega-conglomerate Nestlé.

This ridiculous PR-centric way of dealing with the border crisis (which is still ongoing and worse than ever) was so inept that even the mainstream media had to question why she hadn’t visited the border. Her response: Well, she hadn’t visited Europe, either:

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In short, when disaster strikes and Kamala Harris is asked to take responsibility, the veep acts like a character from “Veep.”

So keep her away from anything related to Hurricane Ian, right?

Do you approve of the Biden administration's response to Hurricane Ian?

Nope, of course not. Even though she wasn’t given a point position in handling the fallout from the Category 4 storm, she still decided to weigh in on the subject.

Harris was speaking to actress and activist Priyanka Chopra Jonas at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum on Friday when the issue of Hurricane Ian came up. This would have been a good time to give a rote “our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in Florida,” etc., etc. answer.

Instead, Harris began by agreeing climate change — which hasn’t been proven to have significantly affected the Atlantic hurricane season in any appreciable way — was impacting minority communities the most.

To many observers, the implication of her remarks was that federal and state resources needed to be allocated in Florida and Puerto Rico based on a sliding wokeness scale.

“You and the administration obviously are working around the clock right now to support relief efforts in Florida and to prepare citizens as Hurricane Ian now is closing in on South Carolina,” Chopra Jones said. “So, extreme weather conditions like this are becoming obviously more frequent and more severe. … So can you talk just a little bit about the relief efforts, obviously, of Hurricane Ian and what the administration has been doing to address the climate crisis in the states?

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“But — and just a little follow-up, because this is important to me: We consider the global implications of emissions, right? The poorest countries are affected the most. They contributed the least and are affected the most. So how should voters in the U.S. feel about the administration’s long-term goals when it comes to being an international influencer on this topic?”

Harris responded by first touting “$370 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act dedicated to address the climate crisis,” which she said was evidenced by hurricanes, wildfires and floods.

“I know we are all thinking about the families in Florida and Puerto Rico with [Hurricane] Fiona and what we need to do to help them in terms of an immediate response and aid,” the vice president said.

“On the point that you made about disparities: You know, when I was — back when I was district attorney of San Francisco — I was elected in 2003 — I started one of the first environmental justice units of any DA’s office in the country focused on this issue,” she said. “And in particular on the disparities, as you have described rightly, which is that it is our lowest income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making.”

Harris went on to say, “And so, we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity, understanding that we fight for equality, but we also need to fight for equity; understanding that not everyone starts out at the same place. And if we want people to be in an equal place, sometimes we have to take into account those disparities and do that work.”

Many thought this was an implication that relief to those affected by Hurricane Ian would be distributed, in part, on the basis of color.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rapid response director, Christina Pushaw, quickly made sure everyone knew the facts about how aid would be distributed.

“This is false,” Pushaw tweeted, along with video of the “equity” comments. “@VP’s rhetoric is causing undue panic and must be clarified. FEMA Individual Assistance is already available to all Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian, regardless of race or background.”

Pushaw continued to push back against Harris’ remarks in further tweets.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk weighed in, tweeting that it “[s]hould be according to greatest need, not race or anything else” — a message Pushaw amplified.

The White House, however, said the vice president’s remarks had been misinterpreted.

“Vice President Harris had already answered the interviewer’s first question, about the FEMA response to Hurricane Ian specifically, by emphasizing that we are urgently responding to all Americans hurt by the storm,” Andrew Bates, deputy White House press secretary, told The Associated Press via email.

“She had explicitly moved on to answering the second question — on ‘long term goals’ for how to ‘address the climate crisis in the states’ — by mentioning the long term investments that Congress, with Republican support, specifically set aside for communities that are vulnerable because of a lack of infrastructure resources,” he said.

In its fact check, the AP said the vice president “spoke about distributing resources equitably to help vulnerable groups, such as low income communities and communities of color, recover from disasters related to climate change. She did not describe the structure that would be used to allocate aid to victims of the recent hurricane.”

Well then.

Kamala Harris was asked to find a solution for the root causes of illegal immigration. She ended with an investment pledge from a yogurt company and a bad-viral clip of her explaining why she hadn’t visited the border. Meanwhile, illegal immigration continues to reach new all-time highs.

Now she’s out there giving people the apparently mistaken impression that FEMA funds might be used for social equity purposes.

One hopes that Bates’ explanation shot down any possibility the administration would consider such a thing.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture