Ashley Etienne, Kamala Harris’ communications director, is resigning. The news comes during one of the worst weeks of Harris’ vice presidency: a CNN report published Sunday detailed “dysfunction” in the vice president’s office as well as a deep rift between her office and the West Wing.
Etienne joined the Biden campaign in August of 2020 and was announced as Harris’ communications chief in November of 2020. Though she had speculated that she might leave one year into the administration, according to Vanity Fair, the news of her decision to leave this week, when media attention has focused so strongly on Harris’ struggles, is likely no accident. A White House official said Thursday that she was leaving to pursue “other opportunities” and added that she was a “valued member of the vice president’s team.”
Etienne, a highly promoted star among Democrats who previously served as communications chief for Nancy Pelosi, largely failed in her efforts to convey the vice president’s activities in a positive light to the American people. A recent poll from USA Today and Suffolk University found that the vice president has a historically low approval rating of 28 percent. And CNN reported that Harris’ supporters said they could “see no coherent public sense of what she’s done or been trying to do as vice president.
The media’s turn on Harris was not a bright spot in Etienne’s stint as communications director. But former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany blames Harris’ job performance for this rather than Harris’ communications team.
“The border is on fire. She didn’t get voting rights legislation passed,” McEnany said Thursday. “Her ability, or ineptitude I should say, is the reason she’s losing the media.”
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that the media’s criticism of Harris is due to her race and gender. “I think there’s no question that the type of attacks — the attacks on her that certainly, being the first she is many times over, is part of that.”
On Thursday, Harris appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America in an effort to quell the bad press. When George Stephanopoulos asked whether she felt misused or underused, Harris said: “No, I don’t. I’m very, very excited about the work that we have accomplished. But I am also absolutely, absolutely clear-eyed that there is a lot more to do, and we’re gonna get it done.” CNN had previously reported that Harris told multiple people that “she feels constrained in what she’s able to do politically.”
Stephanopoulos also asked Harris about 2024, and she said that she and Biden are “absolutely not” discussing it at all.
A Democratic strategist told Vanity Fair that “the Democratic establishment and donor base increasingly see Harris as a ‘nonstarter’ in 2024 if Biden doesn’t run.”