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Harris pushes back on criticisms of her record as a prosecutor

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at the National Forum on Wages and Working People: Creating an Economy That Works for All at Enclave on April 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) addressed in South Carolina Saturday criticisms she's faced since entering the 2020 race about her record as a district attorney and state attorney general who was tough on crime, AP reports.

Details: Harris told the NAACP state conference her prosecutorial background makes her uniquely qualified to hold President Trump accountable, per AP. She also outlined her vision for a criminal justice system in which "safety is a civil right," according to the Los Angeles Times, which noted she said it's a "myth that black people don’t want public safety."

Why it matters: Harris was criticized by some previously for stances including defending the death penalty despite being personally against it, opposing a bill that would've required her office to investigate police shootings and for remaining silent on several criminal justice reforms championed by progressives.

The big picture: In her speech, Harris sought to justify previous policy decisions, rather than apologize for them, according to Politico. And she spoke of her experience as a biracial woman involved in making decisions on how criminal cases were prosecuted, per the LA Times: "We always have to be in those rooms, especially and even when there aren’t many like us there," she said.

"In this election, regarding my background as a prosecutor, there have been those who have questioned my motivations, my beliefs and what I’ve done. But my mother used to say you don’t let people tell you who you are. You tell them who you are. Let me be clear — self-appointed political commentators do not get to define who we are and what we believe. I take my mother’s advice."
— Harris statement, according to campaign team

Go deeper: Kamala Harris on the issues, in under 500 words