After Kamala Harris was sworn in as the Vice President of the United States of America, her niece Meena Harris has become a centre of attention. She has appeared in media to promote her new book, and have gained widespread media coverage. However, now it has caused concern among White House aides, who feel that Meena taking is using her aunt’s name to build her brand.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the promotional activities of Meena Harris have raised eyebrows among Kamala Harris’ aides and advisors. They are concerned that the activities of Meena will bring unwanted scrutiny on Kamala Harris, now that she occupied an important position in the country.
Meena Harris runs a lifestyle brand, and in the media interactions following the win of Biden administration, she has made every effort to promote her brand. She had attained fame during the campaign, as she was a campaign representative for her aunt. It is widely believed that she received disproportionate amount of publicity due to her link with the vice president, and she has used that to promote her own brand.
Meena Harris has capitalised on the name, imagery, history and political slogans of Kamala Harris for her own benefit, as she has used them on her videos, clothes, books and designer headphones. She also runs a company that sells T-shirts and sweatshirts with messages on various causes, which are often worn by celebrities, photos of which are subsequently posted on Meena’s Instagram, TikTok and other social media accounts, along with her photos with Kamala Harris.
Now her these activities have become a source of concern for the Vice President’s aides. One White House official, who didn’t want to be named, said, “Some things can’t be undone. That being said: Behavior needs to change.”
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had campaigned against Donald Trump citing his and his family members’ businesses, and now it is felt that they the current government will face the similar criticism. President is already under cloud for the dealings of his son, and the new team certainly don’t want more questions thrown at them.
Although Meena Harris is not accused of any legal crime, the issue is more about optics. She is leveraging her aunt’s position, which is not going unnoticed. After the election, White House lawyers had told Meena that she can’t produce any product carrying the name or likeness of Kamala Harris. One Children’s book authored by Meena before the elections is titled “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea.” A White House official stated that the book, a sweatshirt printed “Vice President Aunty,” and swimsuits and other products with themes of Kamara Harris are not allowed under existing ethics rules.
But even after briefed by the lawyers about the rules she has to follow, Meena Harris flew on a private plane to attend the inauguration ceremony along with a donor of Biden, and posted about the same on Instagram. She has also launched a production company that produced a video with a political group to celebrate her aunt, and collaborated on special-edition Beats by Dre headphones that used a slogan popularized by Kamala Harris — “The first but not the last”. These headphones were sent to celebrities.
Apart from these, Meena Harris continues to sell her Phenomenal branded clothing containing messages and quotes popularised by Kamala Harris during her campaign.
LA Times says that Meena declined to answer written questions or agree to an interview for the story. However, her PR team issued a statement from her denying the charges. “Since the beginning of the campaign, I have insisted on upholding all legal and ethical standards and will continue to strictly adhere to the ethics rules of the Biden/Harris White House,” she said.
The Vice President’s office has also issued a statement on the issue. The statement issued by ice presidential spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said, “The Vice President and her family will uphold the highest ethical standards and it’s the White House’s policy that the Vice President’s name should not be used in connection with any commercial activities that could reasonably be understood to imply an endorsement or support.”
Richard Painter, who was ethics czar for President George W. Bush, said that Kamala Harris has limited control over her family members in this matter. He said that she can legally forbid them from using her name and likeness, she can implore them not to get on private planes with contributors, and she can restrict contact between administration appointees and family members. But she may not be able to prevent her from using her name for personal benefit.