Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has rejected the suggestion that African-American voters will be less likely to support Mayor Pete Buttigieg because he is gay.
Speaking on CNN, Harris said the “trope” that the black community was less accepting of LGBTQ people was “just nonsense.”
Harris was responding to comments made on Sunday by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), who said that Buttigieg’s sexuality was a “generational issue” and there was “no question” it could impact his support among older black voters in South Carolina.
“I know of a lot of people my age that feel that way,” Clyburn told CNN’s Dana Bash. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you otherwise. I think everybody knows that’s an issue.”
But Harris pushed back on Clyburn’s assertions that there is a blanket “issue,” particularly that black voters are less accepting of LGBTQ people or would be less likely to vote for Buttigieg because of his sexuality.
“Here’s what I make of it: bias occurs in every community,” Harris said during an interview on The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer.
“I’m never gonna buy into that trope — and I think it’s a trope that has evolved among some Democrats — to suggest that African-Americans are homophobic or that there [is] transphobia in the black community as a community,” she continued. “That’s just nonsense.”
Nothing that she respects Clyburn “a lot,” Harris said that she took issue with labeling African-American communities as somehow more intolerant than others.
“The reality is that, sadly and unfortunately, in all communities bias occurs, and in particular homophobia and transphobia — I’ve spent my entire career fighting against it, so I know it is a fact,” Harris said. “But to label one community in particular as being burdened by this bias — as compared to others — is misinformed, it’s misdirected, and it’s just simply wrong.”
Harris — who last month unveiled an extensive policy plan for advancing LGBTQ equality — added: “When you talk about the African American community it is not a monolith, it includes, gay, transgender, LGBTQ people within that community who are loved by their community, loved by their family…like every community.”
“I’m never going to buy into that trope.” Sen. Kamala Harris responds to Rep. Jim Clyburn's comment that Pete Buttigieg's sexual orientation may be an issue for some older African American voters. pic.twitter.com/cqJ98clpiV
— CNN (@CNN) November 5, 2019
Recent polling has put Buttigieg on an average of 4% in the South Carolina — behind Harris on 7%, Sen. Bernie Sanders on 12.8%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren on 15.5%, and former Vice President Joe Biden on 35% — in a state where black voters comprise over 60% of the Democratic electorate.
Last month, focus groups conducted for Buttigieg’s campaign on black, self-identified Democrats in South Carolina found that “being gay was a barrier for these voters” — though the report also noted that Buttigieg’s sexuality was not a “disqualifier.”
Voters also had a number of reservations about Buttigieg, including low name recognition, concerns about his youth, and noting that he lacked “passion, anger, and ‘pizzaz.'”
Buttigieg’s campaign has since tried to distance itself from the results of the focus groups, with traveling press secretary Nina Smith noting on Twitter that the campaign didn’t authorize publishing the report.
“To be clear: our campaign doesn’t buy into the homophobia narrative floating out there. AT ALL,” Smith tweeted. “It’s come from the media (and other voices). No one on this campaign authorized that memo going public. And we’ve actively pushed back against it.”
She said that Buttigieg’s biggest challenge with black voters is that he is a “new face” and “how little voters know about him, adding that any Buttigieg supporter “pushing this homophobia narrative isn’t a true supporter of Pete.”
To be clear: our campaign doesn’t buy into the homophobia narrative floating out there. AT ALL. It’s come from the media (and other voices). No one on this campaign authorized that memo going public. And we’ve actively pushed back against it.
— Nina Smith (@ninasophia81) November 4, 2019