Senator's Comments Draw Allegations of a Sexist Double Standard

June 7th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

A Republican politician scolded California Sen. Kamala Harris (D) about "courtesy" during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, and the exchange is causing a debate about sexist double standards.


During testimony about the investigations into alleged inappropriate conversations between Russians and American government officials, the Democratic senator made demands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Harris asked if he would send a letter to special counsel Robert Mueller—who has been appointed to lead the Russia investigation—telling him he can pursue the investigation independently.

"Are you willing to do that as has been done before?" she asked.

After Rosenstein refused to answer the question directly, Harris interjected to reiterate her question. That's when Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stepped in to remind Harris about "courtesy."

“The chair is going to exercise its right to allow the witnesses to answer the question, and the committee is on notice to provide the witnesses the courtesy, which has not been extended all of the way across, the courtesy for questions to get answered," he said.

Harris, a former prosecutor, responded by saying her direct questioning was necessary.

"Respectfully, may I point out that this witness has joked, as we all have, with his ability to filibuster," she said, indicating that Rosenstein was intentionally avoiding answering questions by discussing unrelated issues at length.

The admonishment from the chair—as well as a dismissive comment made by Homeland Security Secretary John King—drew accusations of sexism on Twitter.






The interaction drew comparisons to an exchange between Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

In February, Senate Republicans invoked a seldom-used rule to stop Warren's speech criticizing then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions' record on civil rights issues. She was reading a letter written by civil rights activist Coretta Scott King in 1986 that slammed Session's previous efforts to bring voter fraud charges against three black civil rights activists for registering elderly black people to vote. The charges brought by Sessions against the activists were eventually found to be unconstitutional.

McConnell's explanation for why he stopped Warren soon became a feminist catch phrase, "nevertheless, she persisted."

“Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech,” he said. “She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

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