June 13, 2024

Symone Sanders to step down as Vice President Kamala Harris’s chief spokesperson

Symone Sanders, the chief spokesperson and senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris, will be stepping down from her role at the end of the year, a source told CNN.

Sanders, 31, joined Vice President Harris’s communications team after serving as a senior advisor for then candidate Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Symone Sanders
Symone Sanders speaks onstage at the National Town Hall on the second day of the 48th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on September 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

“Symone has served honorably for 3 years,” the source told CNN. “The President and Vice President are grateful for Symone’s service and advocacy for this White House. She is a valued member, a team player, and she will be missed. We are grateful to have her working through the end of the year.”

Prior to joining the Biden-Harris team, Sanders served as national press secretary for Sen. Bernice Sanders‘ 2016 presidential campaign, but she is probably best known by the public for her work as a CNN political analyst and commentator.

As chief spokesperson and senior advisor to the nation’s first Black and Asian woman vice president, Sanders oversaw a communications staff tasked with crafting Harris’s public messaging. The team was greatly tested this year as the vice president and her office made headline news for what some considered to be gaffes on behalf of Harris, including her response to a question about why she had not visited the U.S.-Mexico border as vice president and when she failed to pushback against a student who called Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “an ethnic genocide and a displacement of people.”

The Harris team was later marred by a CNN exposé that detailed reports of a dysfunctional office. The lengthy CNN piece by Edward-Isaac Dovere and Jasmine Wright featured testimony from “nearly three dozen former and current Harris aides, administration officials, Democratic operatives, donors and outside advisers,” regarding Harris’ job performance and tense relationship with President Biden.

Before being placed in the office of Vice President Harris following the Biden-Harris campaign, Sanders’s name was reportedly on the shortlist to serve as President Biden’s White House press secretary — a role she made clear she wanted in her 2020 memoir, No, You Shut Up. “One day I want to be White House press secretary,” Sanders wrote.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to members of the press as her press secretary Symone D. Sanders looks on at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport before she boards Air Force Two to return to Washington, DC, June 14, 2021 in Greer, South Carolina. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In a profile of Sanders in The Washington Post earlier this year, her friend and former CNN colleague Bakari Sellers revealed that Sanders was “hurt” by the decision to make Jen Psaki Biden’s press secretary instead. “That one stung her,” he said.

Sanders was lauded for her media appearances on cable news defending Biden after missteps during the campaign that jeopardized his standing with Black voters. One in particular was when Biden told The Breakfast Club host Charlamagne Tha God “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.”

As Sellers noted, “These moments were not few and far between … They would send Symone out to take those bullets. . . . And then to be passed over, that hurt.”

The report of Sanders’s exit from the Harris team comes as Harris and Biden’s poll numbers plunged and Harris’s communications director Ashley Etienne resigned from her post, citing she would “pursue other opportunities.”

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