A CNN reporter covering the Kamala Harris campaign ignited a firestorm of criticism this weekend after she tweeted a video of herself helping Harris try on a colorful sequined jacket - with many questioning the reporter's commitment to journalistic objectivity after appearing to pal around with the subject of her reporting.
The incident occurred during a campaign trip to a boutique purportedly owned by a female entrepreneur who turned to entrepreneurship as a "way out" of poverty and dire life circumstances.
We kind of forced @kamalaharris to try on this awesome oversized rainbow sequin jacket ... She snapped it up. @alivitali perfectly named it as “the Mardi Gras Jacket” #2020 #SouthCarolina #CampaignFashionReport pic.twitter.com/2G0NFRkKL6— Maeve Reston (@MaeveReston) February 16, 2019
In the clip, CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston can be seen laughing and joking with Harris as she helps her try on the jacket. In the caption for her tweet, Reston wrote that "we kind of forced" Harris "to try on this awesome oversized rainbow sequin jacket...She snapped it up,"
Meanwhile, CBS News political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns also posted footage of the impromtu fashion shoot with the hasthtag #campaignfashionreport.
Fox News Brit Hume was one of the first to criticize the "journalists" for "going shopping" with the subject of their coverage, calling the incident "embarrassing."
This is just embarrassing. So now journalists are going shopping with Harris, helping pick out clothes and then putting out glowing tweets about it. https://t.co/RX2IY0B8JL— Brit Hume (@brithume) February 16, 2019
Others were content to crack jokes about the aesthetically unappealing Mardi Gras jacket.
She looks like a Rubik’s Cube.— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) February 16, 2019
This is all I can think aboutpic.twitter.com/G1t2uZG0IH— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) February 16, 2019
If I was your boss I’d have fired you before you could hit send on this tweet. What an embarrassment. The lack of any self awareness on how this looks is stunning.— Todd (@toddmcaleer) February 16, 2019
Though at least one other journalist who was present for the "jacket" incident stepped up to defend her colleagues by retweeting a tweet reminding the world of similar incidents involving male reporters.
The Federalists' Maggie Hemingway joked that, if readers paid close attention, they could detect a slight difference in how the media covers different politicians.
It's very subtle but if you look hard and really study it, you can almost detect a slight difference in how the media cover various politicians. https://t.co/N3n2QniiDm— Mollie (@MZHemingway) February 16, 2019
Responding to the torrent of criticism, CBS's Huey Burns defended her coverage by clarifying that she had asked several hard-hitting questions and that the boutique tour was part of a tour of shops run by economically disadvantaged women.
I specifically asked her about Beto O’Rourke calling for the barrier to come down at the border and whether she’d support that in her home state of California, which also shares a border with Mexico. It’s a policy question, and one Republicans have been asking all week @brithume— Caitlin Huey-Burns (@CHueyBurns) February 16, 2019
But while responses to the controversy have unsurprisingly diverged down partisan lines, at least the reporters involved can rest easy knowing that if their respective networks carry out a Buzzfeed style purge of their reporting staff, they might have a future working as fashion consultants on the Harris campaign.