Fact check: False Kamala Harris claim uses image from 2019 trip to Iowa

The claim: Kamala Harris was intoxicated and throwing up in bushes during Cleveland campaign stop

A viral image purporting to show Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris intoxicated gained traction this week after she made a campaign visit to Ohio. 

“Throwing up in the bushes & staggering aimlessly at the #Cleveland airport was the last straw before staffers put #KamalaHarris back in the plane and took off for #Oshkosh,” reads an Oct. 25 Facebook post that has been shared over 1,000 times. “Onlookers claim the clearly intoxicated Harris was confrontational but too weak to put up much of a fight.”

USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment. 

The image has since been reposted by many users across Facebook with similar captions. 

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Image is from a 2019 visit to Iowa

A reverse Google image search reveals that the image is a screen grab from a video that Harris shared to Twitter on Nov. 28, 2019. It comes from her attendance at the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in downtown Des Moines, where her brother-in-law, Tony West, ran the 5K.

In the video, Harris can be seen leaning over to greet a young boy, asking, “Will you have a cookie?” She then bends down to hand the boy a cookie from the basket.

The clothing Harris is wearing, as well as the background in her Thanksgiving video, match that of the viral image posted this week.

Harris met with residents at apartments off University Avenue, where she had campaigned for then-Sen. Barack Obama ahead of the 2008 caucuses, the Des Moines Register reported. 

Images of her at the Thanksgiving morning event, taken by Zuma Press photographer Jack Kurtz, show Harris meeting with many Turkey Trot participants. In none of them does she appear intoxicated or “throwing up in bushes.” 

Kurtz told USA TODAY that he was 3-4 feet away from Harris at the Turkey Trot and said “she was not drunk, she had not been drinking.” 

“She came to the finish line and was talking to people at the finish line and she was completely sober,” Kurtz said. “There was absolutely no evidence she had been drinking.”

Doug Emhoff, Harris’s husband, said the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving in Iowa came up at the end of September when the California senator’s staff refocused their efforts in Iowa. 

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Harris’ visit to Cleveland

Harris visited Cleveland on Oct. 24, to attend a campaign event where she urged a crowd of around 50 to vote early and criticized President Donald Trump for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, Cleveland.com reported. 

Several local media outlets reported on her visit, none of which mention Harris being intoxicated. 

Harris was also seen wearing a mask at nearly every stop on her tour through Cleveland and social distancing was encouraged by her campaign staff, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Faces visible in the image in the viral post do not include masks.

Video footage on C-SPAN from Harris’ visit to Cleveland also shows that the senator does not appear intoxicated. 

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Our rating: False

The claim that Harris was intoxicated during her campaign stop in Ohio is FALSE, based on our research. The viral image is actually from 2019, when Harris greeted Turkey Trot participants in Des Moines, Iowa. There is no evidence that Harris was intoxicated. Videos and photos from her campaign stop in Ohio also show that she was not “throwing up in bushes” and was wearing a mask, contrary to the screengrab image, which was taken before COVID-19.

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