Sen. Kamala Harris on Thursday called out Vice President Mike Pence for limiting his one-on-one meetings with women, saying the practice is “outrageous.”
Pence told The Hill in 2002 that he “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife,” according to a profile of his wife Karen Pence in The Washington Post. The practice, which some Evangelical Christians follow, drew backlash from some observers, including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Harris, who is part of the sprawling 2020 Democratic field, broadly criticized Pence in an interview on MSNBC, and took specific aim at his approach to meetings with women, though her description of the practice appeared to differ from his.
“I disagree with most of what the vice president stands for, when he makes decisions about our LGBTQ community in a way that doesn’t understand that they should be entitled to full equality and all rights under the law as any other American,” Harris said. “I disagree with him when he suggests it’s not possible to have meetings with women alone by himself. I think that’s ridiculous — the idea that you would deny a professional woman the opportunity to have a meeting with the vice president of the United States is outrageous.”
Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, rejected Harris’ description of Pence on Twitter, calling it a “false claim.”
He’s elevated women to positions of leadership throughout his career & relies on their advice & counsel,” she wrote. “Get your facts straight.”
Harris’ comments came on the heels of a condemnation of Pence by fellow 2020 Democratic contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which was itself a response to possible candidate and former vice president Joe Biden calling Pence “a decent guy.”
Pence has opposed same-sex marriage and previously expressed support for federal funding to treat people “seeking to change their sexual behavior,” though according to PolitiFact, he has not explicitly endorsed conversion therapy, which seek to change a person’s sexual orientation. In 2015, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill LGBT rights advocates see as discriminatory.
Biden has since walked back his “decent” comment, clarifying that “there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights.”
Harris also praised California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order, which halted executions in the state, and reiterated her opposition to the death penalty.
Asked about Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, who officially announced his campaign Thursday, Harris said, “the more the merrier.”
“We have an embarrassment of riches among the Democrats who are running,” she said.