White House defends Kamala Harris’ hurricane relief ‘equity’ remarks:

The White House is defending Vice President Kamala Harris over her recent comments that “equity” needs to be at the center of the response to hurricane relief.

The controversy erupted after Harris was asked during a Democratic National Committee event about the White House’s efforts to respond to climate change-related weather disasters within the U.S. and abroad. 

“It is our lowest-income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making,” she continued. “So we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity.”

Asked about the comments, made in the wake of the vast destruction caused by Hurricane Ian, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the administration was working to break down barriers for minority communities to access federal assistance.

“We are committed to quickly getting resources to all communities impacted, period,” said Jean-Pierre. “But we also know that some people, particularly in lowerincome communities, have a hard time accessing that help.

“That’s why this administration has also made a priority to remove barriers and ensure that everyone, regardless of their zip code, can access federal resources,” she added. 

Deputy White House Press Secretary Andrew Bates told Fox News Digital earlier Monday that the vice president’s remarks had been taken out of context by Republicans and had moved on to longer-term goals when answering. Bates argued that Harris was asked about the federal government’s efforts to address Hurricane Ian and also broader White House goals of combating climate change. 

“Vice President Harris had already answered the interviewer’s first question, about the FEMA response to Hurricane Ian specifically, by emphasizing that we are urgently responding to all Americans hurt by the storm,” said Bates. “She had explicitly moved on to answering the second question – on ‘long term goals’ for how to ‘address the climate crisis in the states’ – by mentioning the long-term investments that Congress, with Republican support, specifically set aside for communities that are vulnerable because of a lack of infrastructure resources.”


The White House refused to state whether President Biden stood by Vice President Kamala Harris’ comments or if they represented official administration policy. 
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Republicans were quick to rebuke Harris, saying it was improper to claim the federal government should prioritize race or other criteria when seeking to help communities impacted by natural disasters. 

Bates suggested Harris was looking beyond Ian.


Kamala Harris' "rhetoric is causing undue panic and must be clarified," said the reelection campaign of GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Kamala Harris’ “rhetoric is causing undue panic and must be clarified,” said the reelection campaign of GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

The reelection campaign of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis even accused Harris of fomenting panic at a time when the state’s residents were still dealing with the fallout of Hurricane Ian. 

Harris’ “rhetoric is causing undue panic and must be clarified,” said Christina Pushaw, the campaign’s rapid response director. “FEMA Individual Assistance is already available to all Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian, regardless of race or background.” 

"We’re going to support all communities," Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell. 

“We’re going to support all communities,” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell. 
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Since the controversy first broke out, administration officials have gone out of their way to say the White House is committed to supporting all communities impacted by natural disasters and climate change. 

“We’re going to support all communities,” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell said during a Sunday appearance on “Face the Nation.” 


While Criswell did not address Harris’ comments directly, the FEMA chief did say there were often barriers that communities of colors and others groups faced when applying for federal aid. 

“One of the things that I have known, and I have experienced, responding to other disasters is that there are people that often have a hard time accessing our programs, there are barriers to our program,” she said. “One of our focus areas, since I’ve been in office, is to make sure that we’re removing those barriers.” 

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