The Truth About the Frosty Relationship Between Joe and Jill Biden and Kamala Harris

Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP

Even though Joe Biden promised to select a woman as his running mate in 2020 and revealed his short list for vice president featured four black women, many were still surprised when Kamala Harris was revealed to be his choice.

During the 2020 campaign cycle, Harris infamously called out Biden for his relationship with United States senators who supported segregation and his record on racial issues. This was rumored to cause a grudge that First Lady Jill Biden reportedly holds onto even now.

On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by Charlie Spiering, author of Amateur Hour, to discuss why Harris was tapped to be the vice presidential nominee and where her relationship with the Bidens stands today.

Bad Blood

Harris did not even make it to the Iowa Caucus when she ran for president in 2020, but she did have a very memorable moment on the campaign trail. During a Democratic primary debate in June 2019, then-Senator Harris delivered very pointed remarks at Biden that many interpreted as her accusing him of being a racist:

HARRIS: I am going to now direct this at Vice President Biden. I do not believe you are a racist… but I also believe– and it is personal and I was actually– it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it’s not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me…

Biden was apparently offended by Harris’ remarks not just because of the politics of them but because he saw it as a low, personal blow from someone he considered a friend. 

As Spiering shared, Harris was close with the late Beau Biden, and he proved to be “an important part of her relationship” with his father. “Certainly she leveraged that to her advantage,” he explained. “For her to sort of turn on him really personally hurt the president but most of all hurt the first lady.”

Spiering said the entire Biden family was “furious” at Harris “for sort of deploying this clearly calculated attack” and the reaction was “very fierce” – though it didn’t prevent her from making the ticket.

Becoming VP

By all accounts, Biden was backed into a corner when it came to choosing a running mate because he had already vowed to pick a woman and had allegedly promised people like Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) that he would specifically choose a black woman. “He was truly just checking a box… and, before you know it, he’s stuck with her,” Megyn noted. “But the way I read the story… he’s never really embraced her. He kind of checked the box and moved on.”

While Spiering said Biden and Harris tried to present a united front in the wake of the election and inauguration, things soured pretty quickly. “They really tried to sell this version of how close they were… [and] how they were going to work as true partners, but, wow, when they got to the White House what a change,” he shared. “It seemed like Biden’s top advisors didn’t necessarily want anything to do with her… and Kamala was kind of pushed aside… She certainly wasn’t a ‘true partner’ as he promised.”

Tensions with Jill Biden

As has been reported, the now-first lady apparently never got past Harris’ comments on the debate stage. “Jill famously writes in her own memoirs that she’s able to forgive but she will never forget,” Spiering said. “And you definitely see that kind of take place as they have events together… There’s no power of the sisterhood; there’s no connection there.”

Instead, Spiering suggests there is somewhat of a power struggle between the two. That became especially apparent after Russia invaded Ukraine. Spiering said that the first lady was planning a trip to the region during her spring break from teaching, but Harris had the same idea.

While Harris – in Spiering’s words – “ended up winning out that race” in terms of making it overseas first, the first lady got the last laugh. “Not to be outdone, Jill Biden actually went to Ukraine for Mother’s Day [in 2022], met with the First Lady [Olena Zelenska] there, and sort of one-upped her in this sort of… behind the scenes competition.”

2024 and Beyond

Given all the history and her free-falling poll numbers, Megyn wondered if there is any chance Biden would move to replace Harris ahead of the 2024 election. Spiering said don’t count on it – in part because of how Biden was treated by former President Barack Obama.

Calling Biden “stuck” and not ready to move on, Spiering explained that the president “remembers how insulting it was when Obama was sort of shopping this idea of replacing him on the ticket with Hillary” in 2012. “He can’t get rid of her because, if he does, it’s admitting he made a huge mistake,” he noted. “It was a very political decision based on identity, so he’ll anger all those constituencies he was trying to help.”

With Biden’s health and ability to complete another four-year term continuing to be a topic of conversation, Megyn said Harris is all the more in the spotlight. “That’s why we have to be paying a little bit more attention to her ahead of this next election,” she concluded.

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Spiering by tuning in to episode 705 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.