Trump’s attempted dig at Kamala Harris proves he’s out of insults

The president employs one of his favorite epithets against the senator, whose questioning of William Barr went viral.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asks U.S. Attorney General William Barr questions during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing May 1, 2019 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Win McNamee/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asks U.S. Attorney General William Barr questions during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing May 1, 2019 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The headline is that President Donald Trump called Sen. Kamala Harris “nasty,” but his entire quote seems worth clocking in full. When Fox Business’ Trish Regan raised Harris’ name in a conversation about Attorney General William Barr’s Wednesday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Harris sits, Trump replied, “She was probably very nasty.”

“Nasty” is, of course, one of Trump’s favored misogynistic epithets, applied most famously to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. (She and many of her followers later reclaimed the term as their own in the most all-American way possible: By stamping it on merchandise.)

The sight of a Democratic woman succeeding at virtually anything inspires Trump to reach into his rather limited arsenal of insults and fling one her way. For everyone just tuning in to America, Trump is a sexist who regularly does and says sexist things, and here is yet another example of said sexism to add to a list with no end.

But the “probably” merits some attention, too. “She was probably very nasty,” he said. Probably, as in, he couldn’t say for sure, because he didn’t see it. Because while who knows how many Americans streamed the hearing streaming live at their desks — C-SPAN being the new must-see TV in this era of anxiety-fueled heightened civic engagement — the president of the United States, who reportedly consumes eight hours of television a day, could not be bothered to tune in and only heard about Harris’ performance secondhand.


Harris is a former prosecutor and it is in hearings like these (see also: Brett Kavanaugh, Jeff Sessions, Kristjen Nielson) that one of her finest assets presents itself to the public, like a plant bending toward the light. A Google search that begins with “Kamala Harris grills” offers plenty of autofill finishes; it is the progressive preamble of the moment, having displaced “John Oliver eviscerates.”

Trump went on to deride Harris, along with Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom hope to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency, as “ranting and raving like lunatics, frankly, and they’re running, and how is that fair? So you have Bill Barr… and he’s gotta take the abuse from people that are running for office. They don’t care about this. They’re just looking for political points.”

Though Trump could not know this for a fact because he apparently did not watch the hearing, what made Harris’ questioning stand out was that it was just the opposite of “ranting and raving.” She was deliberate, pointed, and measured, as is her standard practice — and the basis of her appeal.

Most if not all of the people in power, at present, seem constitutionally incapable of stating facts. And too many of the sources whose only job is to speak the truth clearly and in full still fail to call things exactly what they are: No one is ever “racist,” only “racially-charged”; a lie, oft-repeated, is labeled an “inaccurate refrain.” Where those she questions are evasive and vague, Harris is focused and precise.

During a Thursday morning interview, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota pointed out to Harris that this is the second time Trump has used the word “nasty” to describe her. (Less than a week ago, Trump called into Sean Hannity’s Fox News show and said Harris had “a little bit of a nasty wit,” which honestly sounds like it could be a compliment — very Dorothy Parker, no? — but, presumably, he meant it as an insult.) “What’s that about?” Camerota asked.


“God only knows,” Harris replied, laughing. “Let me be very clear about how I think about what is important and what is before us: We have a President of the United States whose primary interest, I think, that has been clear as a result of what we know from the Mueller Report… is to obstruct justice. My primary interest is to pursue justice. You can call that whatever you want, but I think that’s what the American people want in a leader.”