Criticism of Vice President Kamala Harris on influential Spanish-language talk radio programs in South Florida is prompting speculation in some quarters that she‘s the target of an organized campaign to drive down her popularity.
Fernand Amandi, principal at the public opinion research firm Bendixen & Amandi in Miami, said there “appears to be a proactive, clearly organized effort to demonize and malign” the vice president’s image and reputation.
“It comes in the form of audience listeners calling into live talk shows with talking-point attacks,” Mr. Amandi tweeted. He didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
Stories about Ms. Harris on the Facebook page of Actualidad Radio, a prominent South Florida talk station, also contained criticism of the vice president from the station’s followers. A story about Ms. Harris temporarily taking charge when President Biden underwent a colonoscopy last month prompted Teresa Proenza of Miami to comment on the radio station’s page, “They are already manipulating, for what’s coming.”
Another follower of the station, commenting on a major staff shakeup in the vice president’s office, referred to Ms. Harris being a “despot, rude and demands a lot, having an unbearable character.”
Reed Galen, a longtime Republican strategist who co-founded the Lincoln Project, which targeted then-President Trump, said the supposed anti-Harris campaign “isn’t an accident.”
“It’s the preamble to what will be full-throated accusations of ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ against” Ms. Harris, he wrote tweeted.
The vice president’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
But Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and an occasional guest on talk radio in South Florida, said many Hispanics are unhappy with Ms. Harris for the same reasons as other voters, including her record on the issues of immigration and inflation. He called suspicions of a concerted call-in campaign against the vice president “absolutely ridiculous.”
“I just think that people are calling because our borders are out of control,” Mr. Aguilar said in an interview. “She’s the ‘border czar’ and she hasn’t been to the border. She hasn’t certainly been talking to Central American presidents to deal with the root causes, which we know from a recent visit of the president of Guatemala. Does Kamala Harris come up? Absolutely. It’s a national issue. So just like mainstream media talks about it, Spanish-language is going to talk about it.”
After receiving considerable flak from Republican critics, Ms. Harris did in fact make one trip to the border since being given the issue by Mr. Biden, visiting El Paso, Texas, in late June.
Liberals have been worried previously about the content on Spanish-language talk radio stations in South Florida. In January, more than 20 Hispanic leaders from progressive groups in Florida signed a letter calling on Spanish-language and Latino-focused media outlets in Miami to stop spreading misinformation “that emboldens conspiracy theories.” They cited the claims, for example, that the presidential election was “stolen” from Mr. Trump.
“Many [stations] are blaming antifa and Black Lives Matter activists for the violence in Washington, D.C. with zero factual evidence,” they wrote, referring to the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Lorenzo Canizares, co-coordinator of the Labor-Community Alliance of South Florida and one of the people who signed the letter in January, dismissed the likelihood of an organized call-in campaign on those radio stations against the vice president.
“I don’t know many people younger than 80 that pay attention to them,” he told The Washington Times.
Mr. Aguilar said liberals are “frustrated” that Republicans have made gains with Hispanic voters in recent elections.
Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County supported Mr. Trump over Democrat Joseph R. Biden in 2020, helping Mr. Trump handily win the key swing state.
“Democrats and liberals really believe that they had a hold on the Hispanic vote, and that’s not the case and we’re seeing it,” said Mr. Aguilar, who is a Republican. “So I think they’re going to continue to come up with this type of argument.”
He said Hispanics, especially those from Central America, “took note” when Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said last week that he hasn’t heard from Ms. Harris since she visited Guatemala City in June as part of a much-maligned trip to discuss the “root causes” of the immigration crisis at the southern U.S. border.
“All of that obviously is news for every American, and certainly Hispanics are going to talk about it,” he said.
The White House said this week that Ms. Harris is still the administration’s point person on immigration, and pointed to her announcement of $1.2 billion in pledges from international businesses to support the economies of Central American nations.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Mr. Giammattei’s claim of having no contact with the White House was “inaccurate,” saying administration officials have had “a range of conversations” with the Guatemalan leader. She didn’t directly answer a question about why Ms. Harris herself hasn’t had follow-up conversations with Mr. Giammattei.
Asked about the latest round of negative stories on Ms. Harris and continued Democratic angst about the presidential election in 2024, Ms. Psaki said, “We’re focused right now on what the American people elected the president to do … just over a year ago, which is to get COVID under control, to put people back to work, and to help give people some breathing room. And we hope other people keep their focus on that as well.”
“The president has every intention of running for reelection, so that’s the other message for them,” she said.
At a Treasury Department forum Tuesday on increasing business loans for underserved communities, Ms. Harris began her remarks by reminding the audience of the race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921 that wiped out a thriving Black business district.
“In America today, deep racial disparities continue to hold people back from achieving all they can,” the vice president said. “Today, the wealth gap persists. Today, the homeownership gap persists. Today, access to capital is unequal.”
As the event ended, Ms. Harris didn’t respond to a reporter’s shouted question about whether she is concerned about the impact of surging inflation rates on communities of color.