Jan 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: VP communications director summoned over past tweets

Jamal Simmons is seen speaking during a conference.
Jamal Simmons. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York

Jamal Simmons, Vice President Kamala Harris’ new communications director, is scheduled to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Thursday to listen to their concerns about his old tweets, congressional officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Harris has been seeking to reset her public image and professional accomplishments. Yet her new communications chief faces questions from a key constituency not only to the Biden administration but her potential presidential prospects.

  • In summoning Simmons to a full CHC videoconference, some Latino lawmakers are indicating their level of concern over his 2010 tweets — in which he appeared to call for the deportation of an undocumented migrant being interviewed on MSNBC — and want to have a frank and direct conversation with him.
  • "The statements that Jamal made were just stunning, beyond stunning. Words cannot describe my feelings," Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) told Axios.
  • “Is he a Trumper? That’s a question I might ask him,” Correa said.
  • "I am being public about it, because he was public. He was honest. And I am being honest. And that’s what the public deserves."

The other side: Simmons, who's already tweeted an apology, is willing to meet with anyone who wants to understand his perspective and regret, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

  • He's already called some lawmakers, as well as the woman who was interviewed by MSNBC, Erika Andiola. She's now involved in progressive politics.
  • “Jamal committed to be an ally in his role,” Andiola tweeted. “He acknowledged that the tweet was hurtful in the way it was written.”
  • "I spoke with @JamalSimmons about his commitment to civil and immigrant rights," Rep. Filemón Vela (D-Texas) said on Twitter. "He’s an ally. Right wingers who don’t care about us are the real problem not friends who make mistakes."

The big picture: Some Latino lawmakers have been publicly skeptical and privately critical of Harris for how she’s handled issues important to them, including the southern border.

  • President Biden has tasked her with addressing the root causes of the border crisis, which continues to bedevil the administration, with roughly 1.86 million migrant encounters last year.
  • Some critics were offended by Harris’ comments in Guatemala last June, when she said her message to Central Americans was: “Do not come.”
  • Others want to see even more Hispanic representation in her office.
  • Officials are interviewing candidates to help handle Hispanic outreach, Axios reported earlier this month.

The intrigue: Correa, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Democratic Reps. Jesús "Chuy" García of Illinois and Norma Torres of California appear to be the core of the group of offended lawmakers, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

  • Representatives for their offices declined to comment or elaborate on their private conversations with fellow lawmakers.
  • A call with Simmons scheduled for last week was postponed because many members were flying out of town during the designated time.
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