The Los Angeles Times is reporting that lawyers for now-President Joe Biden’s transition team ordered Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena, to stop using her aunt’s name to turn a profit.
“After Biden and Harris won the election, the transition team’s ethics lawyers told Meena that she could no longer produce clothing or write new books with her aunt’s name or likeness, according to a White House official,” the Times reported Thursday.
Meena Harris is a 36-year-old Harvard law graduate turned social-media-influencer who currently has over 800,000 followers on Instagram. While the allegations against her aren’t necessarily criminal, as the Times notes, they are causing PR problems for the new administration less than a month in.
In addition to leveraging her online platform, Meena Harris has written a children’s book entitled Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, and another, Ambitious Girl, was released on the eve of her aunt’s swearing-in ceremony, according to the Times.
The VP’s niece also runs a charitable clothing brand that she calls “Phenomenal.” The company sells a sweatshirt that reads, “I’m speaking,” a reference to a remark made by her aunt during the vice presidential debate last fall.
Meena Harris has even promoted these products on TV, where she’s appeared on ABC’s The View and NBC’s Today show. Vanity Fair and The New York Times each published profiles on the vice president’s niece this year, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Behavior needs to change”
It’s all spurred controversy surrounding the new administration — and it seems the Biden camp knows they’re walking on thin ice.
“The Biden–Harris campaign, which at one point named Meena as a co-designer on a Kamala-themed shirt it was selling, removed her credit to avoid the appearance that she was benefiting,” the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a White Houe official.
Another source told the paper that the White House may want to squash this bug before it gets any bigger. “Some things can’t be undone,” an unnamed White House official said. “That being said: Behavior needs to change.”
The big plan
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Meena Harris said she has “insisted on upholding all legal and ethical standards” since the campaign began, “and will continue to strictly adhere to the ethics rules of the Biden/Harris White House.”
“With regards to Phenomenal, it was always our plan to remove the likeness of the Vice President from the website before the Inauguration, and refrain from using her likeness in any products or campaigns going forward,” she added.
Nonetheless, the VP’s niece continues to sell those “I’m speaking” sweatshirts, the Times reports.