Black Woman Senator Publicly Cut Off For Second Time in Two Weeks

During former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress last week, a Twitter user jokingly tweeted: “It’s Sen Harris’s turn to question Comey…wonder if she’ll get through questioning without a male colleague telling her to be more polite.” The comment referenced the treatment of Sen. Kamala Harris during a Senate intelligence committee hearing a week prior, when she was interrupted and admonished by Republican colleagues during her questioning of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and told to let him finish his answers.

Harris, a Democrat from California and potential 2020 presidential contender, is the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate. The interruption and her singling out was blatant enough that it did not go unnoticed by news outlets and observers, including fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who immediately following the incident tweeted: “Silencing @SenKamalaHarris for not being ‘courteous’ enough is just unbelievable. Keep fighting, Kamala! #NeverthelessShePersisted”

Warren herself was silenced on the Senate floor in February by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) when attempting to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986 opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions to become a federal judge. Warren’s silencing spurred the Nevertheless She Persisted hashtag.

While Harris was not interrupted during the Comey hearing as those on Twitter joked last week, the tweets were somewhat prophetic. During the Senate intelligence committee hearing on Tuesday Harris was again blatantly interrupted by her Republican male colleagues this time during her questioning of, ironically, Attorney General Sessions.

Harris was pressing Sessions to answer questions over conversations he may or may not have had with President Donald Trump, which Sessions repeatedly refused to answer and then was unable to explain policies he cited that he said entitled him not to respond. As Harris became more adamant in her questioning, she was interrupted by Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was told by committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to “allow the chair to control the hearing.” But Burr proceeded to back him up, telling Harris to “let [Sessions] answer the question.”

It was McCain and Burr who interrupted Harris during the hearing two weeks ago.

Many people watching or hearing Tuesday’s exchange said the behavior toward Harris was not partisan in nature, noting that male Democrats on the committee, who also pressed Sessions to answer the questions, at times aggressively, were not interrupted during their similar line of questioning.

“Sen Harris is called down…again! Why is it that no male Senator is interrupted This is ridiculous and untenable,” tweeted user @chriscashgavo in response to CNN’s tweet highlighting the interruption.

“The true disgrace on display was the discourteous treatment of Sen. Harris by Republican colleagues. She was only Sen interrupted. Yet again,” added @jivelike.

“GOP Senators having issues with Sen. Harris is becoming something of a trend, and the optics of it are not great.,” tweeted @MatthewNussbaum.

“Two GOP Senators interrupt Sen. Harris’s questioning. They don’t do this to anyone else on the committee,” noted @jeffstrabone.

“What is it about Kamala Harris that makes her the only Senator Republicans interrupt at every hearing” @matthewamiller, a former Department of Justice and U.S. House and Senate spokesperson, asked his more than 64,000 followers.

“Not sure it’s a big deal that@SenKamalaHarrisgets interrupted more than her male colleagues during committee meetings Here’s some reading,” tweeted Shana Gadarian, associate professor of political psychology and political communication at Syracuse University, who proceeded to share multiple of examples and links to published reports in the following thread:

Gadarian added: “When female voices are included in discussions, policies change, and we tell women that they are valued members of a community.”

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