Politics

Kamala Harris pulls out of South Carolina criminal justice forum over Trump award

Deepa Shivaram and Dareh Gregorian
Key Points
  • Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said Friday she won't take part in a criminal justice forum after President Trump was given a "Bipartisan Justice Award."
  • Reporters said only seven students were in attendance for Trump's address in the 275-person capacity theater, which was packed with Trump allies and supporters.
  • Harris said she plans to hold a criminal justice roundtable elsewhere in the state Saturday, instead.
California Senator Kamala Harris speaks onstage during the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on October 15, 2019.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said Friday she won't take part in a forum being held at a historically black college in Columbia, South Carolina, this weekend after President Donald Trump was given a "Bipartisan Justice Award."

"As the only candidate who attended an HBCU, I know the importance that these spaces hold for young Black Americans," Harris, who was slated to participate in Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at Benedict College on Saturday, said in a statement.

The California senator cited the fact that only a limited number of students from the school were allowed to attend Trump's remarks as the final straw.

"Today, when it became clear Donald Trump would receive an award after decades of celebrating mass incarceration, pushing the death penalty for innocent Black Americans, rolling back police accountability measures and racist behavior that puts people's lives at risk, and then learned all but ten Benedict students are excluded from participating, I cannot in good faith be complicit in papering over his record," Harris said.

The event's organizer, the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center, cited Trump's work in getting the criminal justice reform measure the First Step Act passed as the impetus for the award.

Trump tweeted that it was "my true honor" to receive the award.

The president responded to Harris early Saturday, calling her a "badly failing presidential candidate."

Reporters at the site said only seven students were in attendance for Trump's address in the 275-person capacity theater, which was packed with Trump allies and supporters. Students were not allowed to ask questions.

Columbia newspaper The State reported that about half the tickets for the event were reserved for guests of the administration, while the other half were distributed locally. The school told the paper there were spots saved for up to 10 students.

Harris said she plans to hold a criminal justice roundtable elsewhere in the state Saturday, instead.

Previous winners of the Bipartisan Justice Award include Harris and Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican.

Other Democratic presidential candidates still taking part in the forum at Benedict over the next two days are former Rep. John Delaney, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

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