This started off looking like a seminal moment in media bias. It’s ending up, however, as evidence of frighteningly sloppy security work by the White House as Vice President Kamala Harris traveled through potentially dangerous territory. Karen Townsend mentioned this in passing, but it’s worth a closer look.
First, here’s the exchange as shown by our friend Jorge Bonilla, who had no reason not to take this at face value — at first:
— Jorge Bonilla (@BonillaJL) June 8, 2021
Harris also took it at face value, and apparently so did the other reporters in the room. The latter is itself somewhat amusing, as the statement itself was unprofessional and inappropriate, but Harris had little choice in the moment. She’s not going to follow up that blown kiss with a demand to check the reporter’s credentials. Harris has staff for that task.
And apparently, they’re not doing that very well. Univision president Daniel Coronell announced later in the evening that the “reporter” doesn’t work for his firm. Note that Coronell specifically calls out the “compliment,” which must have caught his ears even if it didn’t catch anyone else’s in the room:
In Mexico an individual which has no association with @Univision claimed to be a reporter for @UniNoticias in order to ask the @VP a question and to compliment @KamalaHarris. Let it be clear to everyone that Ms. Maria Fernanda Reyes is not part of this media organization https://t.co/edxyzRVlt8
— Daniel Coronell (@DCoronell) June 9, 2021
Well, if “Maria Fernanda” doesn’t work for Univision, then where does she work? How did she get into the press conference in the first place? The Hill asked the White House and the VP’s staff, and so far the only answer is that they’re “looking into” the breach:
A spokesperson for Vice President Harris said officials are “looking into” an incident in which a woman apparently pretending to be a Univision reporter snuck into a press conference in Mexico City to tell Harris that she had voted for her.
The fake reporter identified herself as “Maria Fernanda” from Univision. …
Symone Sanders, senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Harris, responded to Coronell.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are looking into this. https://t.co/5gVsyOoudr
— SDS (@SymoneSanders46) June 9, 2021
This is no laughing matter. Drug cartels operate robustly in Mexico and commit violent acts everywhere, including in Mexico City. One would expect security to be tight for any press conference involving the Vice President, but especially so in a country where that threat is known and significant. Imagine if “Maria Fernanda” had something else in mind than fangirling for the cameras.
The White House had better be doing something more than “looking into this.” They’d better find out who “Maria Fernanda” really is, why she infiltrated the presser, and then replace everyone in the decision chain that allowed her to succeed at it.
Update: At least we know who “Maria Fernanda” is. Jorge Bonilla followed up at Newsbusters:
Univision has devoted a significant amount of airtime to the disavowal of María Fernanda Reyes. To be crystal clear, this María Fernanda is NOT María Fernanda López, who is on staff at Univision’s Miami affiliate. María Fernanda Reyes is an activist who is also involved with the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, which is how she ended up in a meeting with Vice President Harris just prior to the press conference.
The White House knew who this was the whole time, Bonilla says, which prompts the question of why they “left Univision to twist in the wind and take all the heat.” Maybe Univision would like to ask that at the next Harris presser …