White House lawyers have reportedly told Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena, to stop using her aunt’s status to build her brand.
Meena Harris’ brand has used the vice president’s name and likeness to produce clothing, videos, designer headphones and children’s books.
She has promoted her book Ambitious Girl and her various productions in TV appearances on NBC’s Today Show and ABC’s The View along with appearances in glossy magazines.
‘Some things can’t be undone,’ a White House official told The Los Angeles Times. ‘That being said: Behavior needs to change.’
White House lawyers have reportedly told Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena, to stop using her aunt’s status to build her brand
Meena Harris’ clothing brand Phenomenal also sold sweatshirts with MVP – Madam Vice President – and ‘I’m speaking’ on the front; she was told after election to stop hawking products with her aunt’s picture on them
Meena worked with Beats By Dre on headphones with the slogan ‘The First But Not The Last’
Meena’s mother, Maya (right, 53), was a single mother at 17. Kamala is center, Meena is left; Kamala Harris helped raise her niece
Even after the 36-year-old was briefed on the rules she must follow, she reportedly flew to the inauguration on a private jet paid for by a campaign donor and shared the trip on Instagram, according to the Times.
Meena Harris, a Harvard-trained lawyer, started a company four years ago that also sells socially conscious T-shirts and sweatshirts, often worn by celebrities and posted on various social media channels.
The online store continues to sell sweatshirts with the viral quote ‘I’m speaking,’ which were words spoken by Kamala Harris during a debate with then-Vice-President Mike Pence.
Meena Harris has hawked children’s books tied to her aunt, sold ‘Vice President Aunty’ sweatshirts, launched a production company that produced a video with a political group to celebrate her aunt, and collaborated on special-edition Beats by Dre headphones that used a slogan popularized by Kamala Harris: ‘The first but not the last.’
In a statement provided to Times through a public relations firm, Meena Harris defended her practices.
‘Since the beginning of the campaign, I have insisted on upholding all legal and ethical standards and will continue to strictly adhere to the ethics rules of the Biden/Harris White House,’ Meena Harris said.
‘With regards to Phenomenal, it was always our plan to remove the likeness of the Vice President from the website before the Inauguration, and refrain from using her likeness in any products or campaigns going forward,’ she added.
Meena Harris left her job at Uber to run her company, Phenomenal, and, during the election, also was a surrogate for her aunt. However, the social media influencer has stopped selling clothing using the vice president’s name.
After Biden and Harris won the election, Meena was told she could no longer produce clothing or write new books with her aunt’s name or likeness.
Her first children’s book, Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, was about two sisters taking on a community project. Meena is the daughter of Maya Harris, who was a single mother at 17. Kamala Harris helped raise her niece.
Meena Harris told The Los Angeles Times, in a statement released by a PR firm: ‘Since the beginning of the campaign, I have insisted on upholding all legal and ethical standards and will continue to strictly adhere to the ethics rules of the Biden/Harris White House. With regards to Phenomenal, it was always our plan to remove the likeness of the Vice President from the website before the Inauguration, and refrain from using her likeness in any products or campaigns going forward.’
In an interview with The Times of London last month, Meena said her partner gave up his high-flying tech job in San Francisco to be a stay-at-home father to their two daughters, and free her to write feminist children’s books and run her business.
She told how Nikolas Ajagu, who she met while working in the tech industry, decided he wanted to be a full-time father to Amara, four, and two-year-old Leela.
Meena Harris, seen above on Inauguration Day, has hawked children’s books and clothing items tied to her aunt, Vice President Kamala Harris
Meena Harris with her husband Nikolas Ajagu, and daughters Amara (left) and Leela
A book that Meena wrote about her mother and aunt, Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, is number four on the New York Times bestseller list
Ajagu left his job as the Global Head of Partnerships at Facebook to raise their children, she told the paper. It was unclear if he has since returned: his LinkedIn page says he still works for the company.
‘We do not ascribe to the traditional gender role thing in our house,’ she said.
The Biden-Harris administration has vowed to be one of the most ethical in history.
‘The Vice President and her family will uphold the highest ethical standards and it’s the White House’s policy that the Vice President’s name should not be used in connection with any commercial activities that could reasonably be understood to imply an endorsement or support,’ vice presidential spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told The Los Angeles Times.
Questions have arisen about the role various members of President Joe Biden’s family will play in his White House and whether they will profit off of his administration.
Much of the focus has been on Hunter Biden, who recently signed a million-dollar deal to write a memoir, but now other family members are feeling the heat.
Also under scrutiny is Biden’s son-in-law Howard Krein, who works for a healthcare investment firm that advises companies on issues like how to get a government contract, and Biden’s brother Frank, whose law firm has advertised its ties to the president.
The White House has emphasized its policy on possible conflicts of interest.
‘The president is committed to ensuring we have the most ethically vigorous administration in history,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the end of January. ‘And that is something that he’s conveyed publicly and privately as well.’
She also read the official White House policy: ‘It’s the White House’s policy that the president’s name should not be used in connection with any commercial activities to suggest or in any way that could reasonably be understood to imply his endorsement or support.’
Harris’ office follows the same guidelines, which were put into place partly because of questions that arose about former President Donald Trump’s family and how they may have profited off of his administration. His sons Don Jr and Eric kept the family real estate firm running during Trump’s White House tenure.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner held interests in a lifestyle brand and family real estate businesses while they served in (unpaid) positions in the White House.