Kamala Harris’ first trip to the US-Mexico border as vice president was overshadowed Friday when President Biden started speaking at a different event just seven minutes into her highly anticipated press conference.
Harris began her remarks at 1:50 pm eastern time. But at 1:57 pm, Biden rolled up to his own event at the White House to sign into law a national memorial to the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.
The White House often works to ensure that major news events don’t overlap to allow officials and reporters to focus on one at a time — but the split-screen Friday appeared to be by design.
The events were scheduled to begin just five minutes apart and both started late.
It’s unclear if the timing conflict was intended to distract from Harris’ trip to El Paso, Texas, or it the conflict was simply the result of poor planning. Reporters covering the White House already were fuming about planning for Biden’s trip this month to Europe, where press was repeatedly denied access at stops in England, Belgium and Switzerland.
During her remarks in El Paso, Harris claimed that there’s been “extreme progress” in stemming the flow of migration — despite the fact that border apprehensions hit a 21-year monthly high in May.
Biden offered a more somber delivery as he commemorated the 49 people murdered at the gay club in Orlando, Fla., by a man pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group.
“Just over five years ago, the Pulse nightclub, a place of acceptance and joy, became a place of unspeakable pain and loss, and we will never fully recover, but we will remember,” Biden said, joined by some of the survivors.
Shortly afterward, Biden hosted a more jubilant gay pride month celebration — as Harris jetted to her home state California for the weekend.
“Our presence here this afternoon makes a simple strong statement: Pride is back at the White House,” Biden said to applause.
Although former President Donald Trump was described by his aides at the first US president to take office approving of same-sex marriage, Trump took a relatively low-key approach to celebrating June as gay pride month.
Trump launched a diplomatic push to decriminalize homosexuality in other countries and in 2019, he issued a pride-month statement hailing the “outstanding contributions that LGBT people have made to our great Nation.” He also named the first gay person to a Cabinet level job — Ric Grenell, who was acting director of national intelligence.
But Trump also drew fire from activists, including for ordering the military to ban transgender people in 2017.
Biden said at the gay-pride celebration that on Friday he hosted a belated birthday celebration featuring cupcakes for Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who is the first gay Senate-confirmed cabinet member.
“This month, pride flags are flying… in more than over 130 US embassies around the world,” Biden said to cheers.