White House battles image of VP’s office as demoralising workplace rapidly burning through employees
White House press secretary Jen Psaki rejected the idea that the vice president’s office was engaged in a coordinated PR campaign to strengthen the image of Vice President Kamala Harris’s office as a positive work environment after a bruising report revealed that numerous top staffers are leaving her inner circle.
At a press briefing on Monday, Ms Psaki was asked by a reporter about a tweet from David Gins, the vice president’s deputy director of operations, which depicted Mr Gins seated at his desk with a blank expression and a caption about how much the VP’s aide loved his job.
“Hi. My name is David Gins. I work for Vice President Harris on behalf of the American people as Deputy Director for Operations and absolutely love my job. Just thought some of you should know,” he wrote.
Hi. My name is David Gins. I work for Vice President Harris on behalf of the American people as Deputy Director for Operations and absolutely love my job.
Just thought some of you should know 😀 pic.twitter.com/VPuYv9bpbp
— David Gins (@davidmgins) December 5, 2021
In response to a question about whether Mr Gins was directed to send the tweet by anyone in Ms Harris’s office, Ms Psaki said that she was not aware of any such requests by the vice president’s team, while directing further questions to Ms Harris’s staff. The president and vice president have separate comms teams, and Ms Harris’s is headed by Symone Sanders, a former press secretary for the Biden presidential campaign who is among those Harris aides slated to leave in the coming months.
“The director of operations put out a tweet…talking about how much he loved his job,” asked the reporter. “Did anybody ask the deputy director to put out a positive tweet today?”
“I’m not aware of any asks for any positive tweets or any specific tweet”, said Ms Psaki, adding that she knew many people in the vice president’s office who were “looking forward to continuing their jobs”.
move over, Watergate. Tweetgate is here pic.twitter.com/4rX0pQsZdR
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 6, 2021
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that Ms Sanders would be among several staffers leaving the vice president’s team at the end of the year, which the paper dubbed an “exodus” of aides from the office. The story contained damaging criticism from an unnamed ex-staffer, who claimed to the Post that the vice president rarely reads her own briefings while calling her a “bully”.
“It’s clear that you’re not working with somebody who is willing to do the prep and the work,” that former employee told the Post. “With Kamala you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism and also her own lack of confidence. So you’re constantly sort of propping up a bully and it’s not really clear why.”
The report was only the latest in a number of similar pieces documenting high levels of burnout and dissatisfaction in the vice president’s office, resulting both from the reported management style of Ms Harris and her top officials as well as reported friction between the office of Ms Harris and that of President Joe Biden.
A Politico report earlier this year quoted one source described as familiar with the situation as calling the vice president’s office an “abusive environment” where people often “feel mistreated”.
Mr Biden publicly placed Ms Harris in charge of his administration’s response to surging illegal border crossings at the US-Mexico border as well as the Democratic-led push for restoring the Voting Rights Act and reforming election laws. The White House has made little tangible progress on either issue throughout 2021, contributing to polling drops for both the president and Ms Harris.
Recent reports have openly speculated that Ms Harris’s team is concerned she is unprepared for the possibility of running for president in 2024 should the aging Mr Biden not run for reelection, though the president has so far indicated he will run again.