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‘It’s a Big Deal’: TV Coverage Notes Magnitude of Kamala Harris Victory


Soon after the major television networks called the White House for Joseph R. Biden Jr. and devoted some time to discussing the coming end of the Trump presidency, they began taking note of a milestone: the ascendancy of the first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president-elect, Senator Kamala Harris of California.

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski described Ms. Harris’s success as “a crack in the ceiling.”

“As we give this context and talk about Joe Biden’s incredible path to victory, it would be amiss not to mention right now we’re also in another moment of transition and history, where we are going to be witnessing the first women vice president of the United States,” Ms. Brzezinski said.

Ms. Harris’s rise to the second highest role in American government came four years after Hillary Clinton’s White House run fell short and 36 years after Geraldine Ferraro lost her bid for the vice presidency.

On CNN, Abby Phillip said that Ms. Harris, 56, would help Mr. Biden, 77, bridge the gap between the Democratic Party’s old guard and its newer members.

“Kamala Harris represents so much for millions of people in this country,” Ms. Phillip said.

Her CNN colleague Dana Bash noted that Ms. Harris was a key part of a winning national ticket 100 years after women had won the right to vote and 55 years after the Voting Rights Act sought to protect against Black disenfranchisement.

Ms. Harris was born in 1964, a year before the act was put in place.

“The magnitude of this moment certainly is not lost on Black women and likely many women in general,” said the ABC News anchor Linsey Davis. “I’m especially thinking about the little girls of all colors, but in particular, Black and brown girls, because there’s so much power in seeing someone who looks like you.”

On Saturday, major networks focused primarily on Mr. Biden’s victory and President Trump’s refusal to concede. The story of Ms. Harris’s triumph was secondary, and the discussion of her rise was led mostly by female anchors and commentators.

On Fox News, after the Biden news had settled, the host Dana Perino said, “I want to take a moment, obviously, for Kamala Harris. This is a significant, historic moment for America, for women in America, and for Black Americans and Indian Americans. It’s a big deal, and I think we should acknowledge that.”

Donna Brazile, a Fox News contributor who was formerly the interim head of the Democratic National Committee, wiped away tears as she reflected on the significance of Ms. Harris’s victory. She said that, on Saturday morning, she had thought about her mother and grandmother, who did not have the right to vote.

“Been a long time coming, to be the last to get voting rights, to be those who waited and waited for our turn,” Ms. Brazile said. “This is not about asking anyone to leave the room. Just scoot over and let women also share in the leadership of this country.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said that President Trump, an unusually dominant figure in the news for the last four years, complicated the coverage on Saturday.

“Trump is making it more difficult in the moment to celebrate her accomplishment, because he is draining part of the attention available in the news narrative,” Ms. Jamieson said. “But it’s not being ignored.”

Nancy Cordes, the congressional correspondent at CBS, provided a history lesson, noting that Ms. Ferraro, as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, was asked whether she was “tough enough” for the job of vice president and if “the Soviets might try to take advantage of the White House” because of her gender, Ms. Cordes said.

“If you think about the questions Kamala Harris got this time around, she got tough questions, but certainly nothing about her fitness to be in office because she is a woman,” Ms. Cordes said. “So that in itself is progress.”

The history-making rise of a daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants was also the focus of articles published online on Saturday by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.

A news alert from The Journal noted that Ms. Harris would be “the highest-ranking woman ever in the line of presidential succession.” The Atlantic ran a story with a simple headline: “She Did It.” The feminist website Jezebel led its home page with “Good Morning to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, and Kamala Harris Only,” placing its article on Mr. Biden second. On The 19th, a nonprofit gender and politics news site, Ms. Harris was center stage.

Others weighed in on social media. The writer Roxane Gay said: “I did not think I would be this moved to see a black woman/south Asian woman/woman as Vice President. But I am.”

Reacting to the news on Twitter, in a post that was retweeted by Lydia Polgreen of Gimlet Media and Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America,” Ms. Harris shared a video of herself on the phone with Mr. Biden celebrating the victory.

“We did it, Joe,” she said.

Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting.

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