The claim: Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a 'racist' and said she believed sexual harassment allegations against him
A meme shared by Donald Trump Jr. on Instagram Aug. 19 makes two claims: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called former Vice President Joe Biden a racist and said she believed his sexual harassment accusers.
"REMEMBER that time when you said that you believed Biden's sexual accusers.. and, that Biden was a RACIST??" the meme reads. "That was AWESOME."
In the caption, Trump Jr. wrote, "Things they aren’t talking about at the DNC."
The meme is similar to an image — shared by conservative commentator Larry Elder, among others — that circulated on Facebook last week that claimed that Harris called Biden "a racist and a rapist."
President Donald Trump also reiterated a version of the claim in a tweet on Wednesday night, minutes after Harris finished speaking at the DNC.
"BUT DIDN’T SHE CALL HIM A RACIST??? DIDN’T SHE SAY HE WAS INCOMPETENT???" Trump tweeted.
Neither the White House, Trump Jr., nor Elder responded to requests for comment from USA TODAY.
Harris said she does 'not' think Biden is a racist
It's true that Harris and Biden clashed over the former vice president's track record on race when they were vying for their party's nomination.
At the first Democratic presidential debate in June 2019, Harris questioned why Biden had spoken favorably of segregationist senators and worked with them to oppose efforts to integrate schools through busing.
But Harris prefaced her comments by clarifying that she was not calling Biden a racist.
“I’m going to now direct this at Vice President Biden,” she said at the time. “I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.”
Harris went on then to cite Biden’s fight against school busing and told the story of a young California girl who was part of the second class to integrate her school.
“That little girl is me,” she said.
Biden watched stone-faced as Harris attacked him. When he got his chance to speak, he fired back at Harris, calling her criticism a “mischaracterization.”
Harris said she believes some, not all, of Biden's sexual harassment accusers
As the nature of sexual harassment allegations against Biden have changed, so, too, has Harris' response to them.
In March 2019, Lucy Flores, a former state lawmaker from Nevada, accused Biden of inappropriate touching and of kissing her head at a campaign event. Following that, six other women came forward to share stories of unwanted touching by Biden.
Biden said his touching was about making "a human connection," but vowed to be more "mindful and respectful."
In April 2019, Harris said she believed the women who said they felt uncomfortable after Biden touched them.
"I believe them, and I respect them being able to tell their story and having the courage to do it," Harris said.
At that time, none of the allegations included rape or sexual assault.
In March 2020, though, Tara Reade, a former Biden Senate staffer, accused Biden of sexual assault.
In April, Harris said in a San Francisco Chronicle podcast she believes that "Reade has a right to tell her story" — not that she believed Reade's allegation, which Biden has vehemently denied.
"I believe that, and I believe Joe Biden believes that, too," Harris said.
She added she can "only speak to the Joe Biden I know."
"The Joe Biden I know is somebody who really has fought for women and empowerment of women and for women’s equality and rights," she said.
Our rating: Partly false
Based on our research, the claim that Harris called Biden a racist and said she believed sexual harassment allegations — or called him a "rapist" — is PARTLY FALSE. Harris never called Biden a racist. She said she believed women who said that unwanted touching from Biden made them uncomfortable. But she never said she believed a sexual assault accusation from Tara Reade, or any allegations of rape, and did not call him a rapist.
Our fact-check sources:
Washington Post, Aug. 11, No, Kamala Harris didn’t call Joe Biden racist
New York Times, March 31 2019, Who Is Lucy Flores, the Woman Accusing Joe Biden of Kissing Her?
New York Magazine, April 5 2019, All the Women Who Have Spoken Out Against Joe Biden
The Hill, April 3 2019, Harris: 'I believe' Biden accusers
Politico, April 23, Biden sexual assault allegation roils #MeToo movement
The San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, Kamala Harris ‘would be honored’ to be Joe Biden’s running mate
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Harris never called Biden racist, believed some accusers