On 3 February, two days after pop-star Rihanna tweeted against India’s farm reforms, US Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris jumped on the bandwagon to oppose the new farm laws passed in September 2020.
In a tweet amplifying disinformation, Meena Harris said she was “outraged” by “paramilitary violence against farmer protesters” in New Delhi when in fact it was the protesters who had unleashed violence in Delhi, attacking security personnel with swords, stabbing cops and trying to run them over with their tractors.
No wonder she derives inspiration from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“... the most populous democracy is under assault,” she said in protest against the farm laws passed by Indian Parliament to give greater autonomy to farmers.
Later in the day, Meena Harris retweeted a Twitter thread by Deepa Shivaram, an NBC News journalist, which asks people “trying to understand what's going on India right now” to follow Rana Ayyub and Simran Jeet Singh (@simran on Twitter), two far-left activists, one from India and the other from the US, widely known for their disinformation campaigns on India related issues.
The US Vice President’s niece labelled those critical of her stand on Indian farm laws as a “mob of angry misogynists” and continued her rant against India in subsequent tweets even as the Joe Biden administration took a measured view of the issue and even welcomed moves aimed at “improving the efficiency of Indian markets” and attracting “greater private sector investment” in agriculture.
In fact, Meena Harris is quickly becoming an optics issue for the White House.
The 36-year-old Stanford and Harvard Law graduate, who claims to speak for the underprivileged, flew to the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ inauguration last month on a private plane owned by a donor to Biden’s campaign.
Not just her Twitter rants and joy rides on private jets, but her business ventures have also become a problem for the Biden White House.
“... some on the Biden campaign and now the Biden White House think Meena is, well, too ambitious — at least when it comes to leveraging her relationship with her aunt, Vice President Kamala Harris,” an article in Politico says.
Meena Harris has authored two books, one titled Ambitious Girl and the other Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea. While the first book is the No 1 New York Times bestseller, the other is No 4 on the list. She has a clothing line, Phenomenal, and co-founded a production company after the November 2020 election.
To avoid controversies linked to Biden family’s rising fortunes over the last three decades, the White House has said “the president's name should not be used in connection with any commercial activities to suggest or in any way, in any way they could reasonably be understood to imply his endorsement or support”.
This policy also applies to Kamala Harris, and the Vice President’s office has said she and “her family will uphold the highest ethical standards and it’s the...policy that the Vice President's name...not be used in...commercial activities.”
This policy, the Politico piece titled, “The @meena problem” says, “has been trickier to enforce with Meena than some other family members”.
Meena Harris’ business ventures bet on the high marketability of the Kamala Harris story for success. The name that Meena Harris shares with the US Vise President is, in fact, the main ingredient of the success formula, from the books she has authored to the t-shirts and and swimsuits she has sold.
The “Kamala Harris Swimsuit,” “Kamala Tank” and “Kamala T-shirt” were removed or discontinued from ‘Phenomenal’s’ website after the Biden transition team’s ethics lawyers informed Meena Harris that she could not restock the items.
But the same can’t be said about the books, which were published before Kamala Harris became the Vice President. When asked if she continues to accept royalties on the books, Meena Harris did not comment.
“White House officials say that Meena [Harris] would be prohibited from publishing that book now because it uses Kamala’s [Vice President’s] name in the title and her likeness on the cover,” the report in Politico reads.
In August 2020, after Kamala Harris was selected as Biden’s running mate, Meena Harris had “pushed” the campaign team to sell a shirt designed by her and a friend in their store, the Politico report claims, saying the Biden team had “scrubbed Meena’s name off of the campaign shirt” by September.
“For appearance sake, Meena’s name was removed because we didn’t want to make it seem or appear that she would be benefiting or profiting from the campaign,” a White House official told Transition Playbook, according to Politico.
In January this year, when she unveiled a business collaboration between her company Phenomenal and audio products manufacturer Beats Electronics, Biden's transition team lawyers had to remind Meena Harris that she can't use her aunt and VP-elect Kamala Harris’ name, image or likeness for profit.
News reports say the Beats headphones mailed out to influencers and celebrities for promotion had the phrase ‘The First But Not The Last’, a reference to Kamala Harris being the first Vice President. The same phrase was used in the T-shirt designed by Meena Harris and sold on the Biden campaign’s online store.
A report in Axios says that (then Vice President-elect) Kamala Harris’ team was not made aware of the business collaboration in advance, and adds that Meena Harris did not respond when asked to comment on the issue.
Meena Harris’ production company — Phenomenal Productions — has also created problems for the White House with one of its first projects, a two-minute video which has clips featuring her aunt Kamala Harris.
The video, which was released only a day before the inauguration, was produced with the Supermajority Education Fund, a nonprofit which spent over $1 million on ads supporting Biden and opposing Donald Trump.
When asked if she was paid by the Supermajority Fund for the production of the video of her aunt, Meena Harris did not respond, the report says. The video, which is available on YouTube, lists Meena Harris as a producer.
“The White House said it did not know if Meena was paid for the ad, or whether her company volunteered its time,” the Politico report says.
Her disinformation campaign against India’s farm laws and the handling of the farmer protests could soon become the latest ‘Meena problem’ for the White House, and ethics lawyers would not be of any help if it does.
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