Barack Obama came under fire after commenting on Kamala Harris' looks: 'Disgraceful!'

Kamala Harris made history in January, as she was sworn in as America’s first female, first Black and first South Asian Vice President. Former US President Barack Obama greeted Ms Harris with a fist bump during the ceremony – a gesture that carried symbolic weight as the history-making former President prepared to watch her make some of her own. The two actually go back a long way.

When Mr Obama first announced his bid for presidency in 2007, Ms Harris was one of the first elected officials in California to endorse him.

And the former US President has always had lots of kind words for her – including some remarks that raised eyebrows in the political world.

Speaking at a Bay Area fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in 2013, President Obama praised the looks of Ms Harris.

He said: “You have to be careful too, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake.

“She also happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general in the country.”

He added, to laughter from the crowd: “It’s true! C’mon!”

Some cringed at the remarks, given the historic hurdles women face to be recognised for their accomplishments rather than their looks.

Jonathan Chait, a writer for New York magazine, called Mr Obama’s comments “disgraceful.”

He wrote: “Women have a hard time being judged purely on their merits.

“Discussing their appearance in the context of evaluating their job performance makes it worse.”

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The former President immediately apologised to Ms Harris.

Former press secretary Jay Carney said: “He did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities.”

He added that the President “fully recognises the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance”.

Ms Harris’s spokesman said she strongly supported Mr Obama but would not say whether she had accepted his apology.

Earlier this month, Ms Harris Harris cast the tie-breaking vote on Democrats’ $1.9 (£1.6) trillion Covid relief bill that became the law of the land, marking another high-profile moment for the first female Vice President.

Ms Harris may not be the President, but for those on the front lines of the battle to see a woman behind the resolute desk, her ascendancy to the No.2 spot is an undeniable victory to build on.


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Stephanie Schriock, president of political action committee Emily’s List, which has been on the front lines of that battle since 1985, told CNBC: “That is a huge milestone to cross over.

“She will be in the room where the big decisions are being made, where the agenda is being set, with a perspective that has never been there before.”

Efforts to get a woman elected to the highest office in the US stretch back well over a century.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first woman to run for the office in 1872, as the candidate of the Equal Rights Party.

Dozens of women tried to gain a foothold in the following years.

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