Published 2:21 PM EDT Aug 12, 2020
The claim: Kamala Harris said she listened to Tupac and Snoop Dogg while smoking weed in college, despite graduating before their music careers
Kamala Harris, running mate of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, is no stranger to controversy. One critique leveled at the California senator went all the way back to her college days.
“Kamala Harris says she smoked weed in college while listening to Tupac & Snoop,” a Facebook graphic, shared over 400 times, reads. “Snoop’s first album-1993. Tupac’s first album-1991,” the post continues.
The original graphic, created by conservative activist Derrick Gradenigo, has been frequently reposted by right-leaning meme pages and political pages since it first appeared online.
The post alludes to remarks that Harris made in February 2019, during an interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club,” after which multiple outlets claimed Harris said she smoked weed to Tupac and Snoop Dogg in college.
While the image gets the release years of the iconic rappers’ first albums correct, it inaccurately states that Harris claimed she smoked weed while listening to the artists in college.
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‘The Breakfast Club’ and missing context
“The Breakfast Club” is a syndicated radio show with a focus on Black culture, music, commentary and politics. Over its decade of existence, the show has garnered a wide national audience. This has made it an influential and coveted channel for reaching its central demographic: young Black Americans.
This reality made Harris’ February 2019 appearance on “The Breakfast Club,” a little over a month after she’d launched her presidential campaign, an important first step in her outreach to Black Americans.
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“Have you ever smoked?” Charlamagne Tha God, one of the show’s hosts, asked Harris, concerning her history with marijuana. “I have. And I inhaled,” Harris replied. “It was a long time ago,” she chuckled.
Later in the interview, co-host DJ Envy asked Harris, “What does Kamala Harris listen to?” Before Harris had a moment to answer, Charlamagne Tha God quickly asked her what she was listening to when she had smoked marijuana in college.
Harris briefly laughed at the quick exchange, which caused a stir in the famously raucous recording studio. She then made eye contact with DJ Envy, who had offered Snoop Dogg as a possible artist during the crosstalk.
“Oh my goodness. Oh yeah, definitely Snoop. Yeah, Tupac, for sure,” Harris said.
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Audio alone of the interaction leads to uncertainty about the question to which Harris was responding, whether DJ Envy or Charlamagne Tha God’s question about what Harris listened to in college. Video of the exchange, however, shows Harris’ body language is clearly responding to DJ Envy, avoiding eye contact with Charlamagne Tha God while she does so.
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Harris team denies claims
Harris graduated from Howard University in 1986, five years before Tupac Shakur’s first album “Nothing but Trouble” was released and seven years before Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle.”
After a viral tweet observed the apparent conflict in dates — it also included a screenshot of a story from marijuanamoment.com inaccurately describing the conversation on music and drugs — an online pile-on targeting the senator began.
Harris’ presidential campaign denied the claims shortly after they started trending.
“The rightwing is so desperate to attack @KamalaHarris they’re trying to make Reefergate happen,” tweeted Ian Sams, Harris’ spokesman at the time.
“@djenvyasked what she listened to. @cthagod made a pot joke. Then she answered @djenvy’s question. This really isn’t that complicated. Just watch.”
Hosts of “The Breakfast Club” also criticized the media frenzy, with D.J. Envy telling MSNBC’s Ari Melber that media outlets and pundits repeating the claim, “Absolutely, positively lied.”
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“We wanted to humanize her, not just talk about politics. Talk about what she likes, what she does. And I asked what she listens to, and she said she listens to Snoop Dogg and Tupac. At the same time, my co-host was still talking about the marijuana,” Envy continued.
“And it was just a funny exchange. But she was actually answering me, and people took it she was answering Charlamagne, and said she was lying, which is not true.”
“And I want everybody to know they’re doing the work of Fox News,” Charlamagne added. “The black Twitter people you see that are going in on Kamala because of this, y’all doing the work of Fox News. Fox News got y’all. They got y’all.”
Our ruling: Missing context
Viral graphics about Kamala Harris’ 2019 comments about her college days and hip-hop are inaccurate and lack context. Video of a quick exchange shows Harris answering a question on music, after she was asked about both music and marijuana simultaneously. We rate this claim as MISSING CONTEXT, based on our research.
Our fact-check sources:
- The Breakfast Club on Youtube, Feb. 11, 2019, Kamala Harris Talks 2020 Presidential Run, Legalizing Marijuana, Criminal Justice Reform + More
- NBC4Washington, Aug. 11, 2020, Howard University Hails Selection of Kamala Harris for VP Candidate
- Washington Post, July 17, 2019, How ‘The Breakfast Club,’ home to brash hosts and irate rappers, became a one-of-a-kind campaign stop
- Ian Sams, Feb. 12, 2019, tweet
- The Grio, Feb. 15, 2019, ‘They’re Lying’: Breakfast Club radio hosts slam Fox News for creating Kamala Harris ‘Reefergate’
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