Before Vice President Harris’s plane touched down at Joint Base Andrews after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, the narrative of her first foreign trip had already been cast.
Biden allies and even some people close to Harris said they viewed her trip to Guatemala and Mexico as a “disaster,” as one put it.
They said they were left wondering why she seemed so ill-prepared to handle basic questions like “Why you haven’t been to the border?” that have been telegraphed by Republicans and conservative media as well as more mainstream outlets given her focus on the Northern Triangle countries and immigration.
Harris’s comments about visiting the border during the trip left almost everyone shaking their heads inside and outside the White House.
“It wasn’t great,” said one longtime Biden ally. “A little cringeworthy too. I don’t know how they weren’t preparing for these questions.”
Another ally was blunt: “It was terrible. I don’t know how else to say it.”
The allies pointed to several comments that gave critics of Harris and the Biden administration an easy talking point.
First, they pointed to Harris’s remarks at a press conference on Monday, where she pointedly told migrants “do not come” to the border. Those comments drew a backlash from progressives, including Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who said they sent the wrong signal.
The following day in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt, the sources said Harris came off as defensive when Holt repeatedly asked if she was going to visit the border.
“We are going to the border, we’ve been to the border,” Harris told Holt. When Holt told her she had not visited the border, Harris replied: “And I haven’t been to Europe.”
The comment was played on loop on the cable networks even before Harris left Mexico City for Washington. The flub even found its way to late-night television, when the "Tonight Show’s" Jimmy Fallon played the clip Tuesday night.
“Well, that escalated quickly,” Fallon said, after making an inquisitive face about Harris’s comments. The studio audience laughed.
Democrats say it’s still early in the administration and mistakes are bound to happen.