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Kamala Harris appears at women’s event with Bill Clinton after anger over sexual harassment claims against him

The Independent logo The Independent 26/03/2021 Danielle Zoellner
Kamala Harris standing in front of a laptop © Provided by The Independent

Vice President Kamala Harris attended a Clinton Foundation event with Bill Clinton to discuss female empowerment amid Covid-19, but the scheduled talk sparked backlash given the past accusations of sexual abuse against the former president.

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The Clinton Global Initiative event took place on Friday and was hosted by Howard University, of which Ms Harris was an alumni.

Prior to the talk, it was shared widely as a "one-on-one conversation" between the vice president and Mr Clinton to discuss "the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women, and empowering women and girls in the US and around the world".

Social media was flooded with criticism of the purpose of the event on Tuesday following its announcement, with people accusing it of being tone-deaf given Mr Clinton faced several sexual harassment accusations in the past.

Mr Clinton was accused of sexual assault by Paula Jones in 1991 and of rape by Juanita Broaddrick in 1978. He has denied both claims but both women have stood by their stories.

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Several other women have also accused the former president of sexual harassment, claims which Mr Clinton has denied.

Despite the backlash, the virtual event was positive between Ms Harris and the former president, and it gave the vice president a chance to discuss some of the impact the passage of the American Rescue Plan would have on working families, single mothers, and people of colour.

This included the child tax credit, which the Biden administration believed would help lift 50 per cent of children currently living in poverty out of poverty. Also, Ms Harris spoke about how the American Rescue Plan prioritised initiatives like paid sick leave and paid family leave, which working class Americans don’t always receive at their jobs.

When asked by Mr Clinton what the vice president wanted students who were tuning into the virtual talk to know, she mentioned how many of them likely might have experienced being the “first” in aspects of their lives.

“I know you have a lot of students who are the first in their family to go to school or college. First in your gender or race,” Ms Harris said.

“I just want to remind you ... when you are in those rooms and you may be the only one like you ... I want you to remember to not feel alone in those rooms,” she continued. “We are all in those rooms with you. We are applauding you. You carry the voice of so many who are proud of you.”

Ms Harris was the first female vice president, as well as the first African American vice president and Asian American vice president. Prior to that, the vice president has built her career in being the first in most of the jobs she took.

“So when you are in those rooms, use that voice. Don’t ever let circumstances or situations make you feel alone. … You are capable of anything you choose to do,” she added. 

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