California Senator Kamala Harris has, in the roughly seven months since she began her presidential campaign, become a front-runner in the crowded Democratic primary. She even saw a significant bump in favorability in several major polls after the June debates, in which she took former Vice President Joe Biden to task for his views on school busing. She has positioned herself as a progressive candidate, thanks in large part to her deft ability to stand up to the Trump administration in her brief tenure as a Senator.
But Harris’s rise has irked some on the left, particularly those with an eye on her prosecutorial record as San Francisco District Attorney from 2004 until 2011 and, more famously, as California Attorney General, a position she held from 2011 until she joined the Senate in 2017. On Twitter, you’ll frequently see leftists referring to Harris as a cop and a fake progressive. So when fellow presidential hopeful Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard reamed Harris at the July 31 Democratic debate over her prosecutorial record, it not only visibly upset Harris — who has largely avoided mainstream criticism — but sent people in droves to Google to figure out what Gabbard was talking about.
So what is the deal with Harris’s record as a prosecutor? We break it down.
What did Gabbard say about Harris?
When Gabbard went after Harris, she was doing so to bring up a greater point about the current criminal justice system in the United States. Harris prides herself on being a “progressive prosecutor” and has said that she will bring her prosecutorial skills to the White House. Gabbard’s core claim is that this would be an overwhelming negative for the U.S.
Here’s what Gabbard said:
I want to bring the conversation back to the broken criminal justice system that is disproportionately, negatively impacting black and brown people all across this country today. Now, Senator Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor president. But I’m deeply concerned about this record.
There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California, and she fought to keep a cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.
While Harris defended herself as committed to criminal justice reform, any one of these accusations would not bode well for someone positioning themselves as a progressive. So is anything Gabbard said true?