A Mexican-American entrepreneur who asked Kamala Harris a question at her press conference in Mexico City ‘misrepresented herself,’ a White House official has said.
Maria Fernanda Reyes was mocked on social media when she fawningly told Harris: ‘I voted for you,’ before asking a question.
She was introduced by Harris’ press secretary Symone Sanders as ‘Maria Fernanda from Univision’, was one of only five people called on for questions at the Mexico City event on Tuesday.
On Wednesday a White House official told The Daily Caller: ‘This person misrepresented herself to both Univision and to the Vice President’s staff.
‘She misrepresented herself to the Vice President’s staff as part of Univision’s crew, which was properly credentialed for the event.
‘This person underwent the same level of security screening and was never a security threat to the VP.’
Reyes, the White House said, told Harris’ team that she was part of Univision’s crew.
Reyes is in fact a San Francisco Bay-area entrepreneur and charity founder.
She told Fox News that she was in Mexico City on Tuesday working with farmers when she was asked by fellow entrepreneurs to attend Harris’ event.
It is unclear how those accredited to the press conference were able to invite other people to attend – and the story is highly unusual, and deeply concerning.
The imposter, introduced by Harris’ press secretary Symone Sanders as ‘Maria Fernanda from Univision’, was one of only five people called on for questions at the Mexico City event
Kamala Harris was in Mexico City on Tuesday, where she was questioned by a woman who was incorrectly introduced as a Univision reporter
Reyes said everyone in attendance was asked if they would be interested in asking a Harris a question, rather than just journalists. She said that she did not correct the moderator, Sanders, because she was so surprised to be called on.
Reyes expressed surprise at the reaction to her question, which made headlines in English and Spanish-language media.
‘Everyone’s trying to twist it for their own agenda,’ she told Fox News.
‘I don’t care. I asked a question… If people don’t like it, fine.’
A press secretary for Harris told DailyMail.com the incident at the press conference, which allowed a random person to be in close proximity to the nation’s second highest-ranking official, was under review.
Univision has a correspondent named Maria Fernanda, but her surname is Lopez. She is based out of Miami and did not attend the Mexico City event, where Univision was actually represented by reporter Jesica Zermeño.
‘Thank you, Madam Vice President,’ Reyes responded as she stood up.
‘For me, it’s an honor because I actually got to vote for the first time as a naturalized citizen. I voted for you.’
‘My question is, what would you say to these women, those mothers and also women of color on both sides of the border, farmers, many of them who I see every day as a message of hope but also as – What will you do for them in the next coming years?’
Doppelgangers: Maria Fernanda Reyes, an entrepreneur from California (left), was called on to ask a question during VP Kamala Harris’ Mexico City event on Tuesday, after she was mistaken for lookalike Univision reporter Maria Fernanda Lopez (right)
Harris nodded and said: ‘That’s a great question.’
Reyes’ obsequious question, prefaced by her admission that she had cast a vote for Harris, immediately raised the hackles of right-wing critics, who pointed to it as purported proof of the media’s biased coverage of the Biden Administration.
‘Before asking Kamala Harris a question, the reporter from Univision just stated how honored she was to be able to ask a question to @VP & told her that she voted for her,’ tweeted Amy Tarkanian, former Nevada GOD chairwoman.
‘Ah, how nice it is to have an impartial and unbiased media.’
Reyes later said that she was not especially interested in politics, but wants to see conditions improve in Mexico and Central America.
She is the founder of the AdoptaHero campaign, which aims to supply frontline workers in Mexico with medical equipment and PPE.
She was interviewed by Univision Noticias in July 2020 regarding the campaign.
Reyes (left and right) is the founder of the AdoptaHero campaign, which aims to supply frontline workers in Mexico with medical equipment. She lives in the Bay Area
Univision’s Maria Fernanda Lopez (left and right) has worked for the Spanish-language network for 17 years. She is a native of Cali, Colombia
The mission of Reyes’ charity is to provide PPE to frontline workers and hospitals in Mexico
After Reyes’ question, Univision clarified that she was not one of its reporters.
‘In Mexico an individual which has no association with @Univision claimed to be a reporter for @UniNoticias in order to ask the @VP a question and to compliment,’ said Daniel Coronell, Univision’s president of news in a post on Twitter.
‘Let it be clear to everyone that Ms. Maria Fernanda Reyes is not part of this media organization.’
Jesica Zermeño, the real correspondent for Univision in Mexico City, was in the room at the time that Reyes was called on to ask a question
Univision’s Maria Fernanda Lopez, also addressed the ‘misunderstanding’.
‘I have never traveled to Mexico, I was in Miami during the incident where Maria Fernanda REYES claimed to be a reporter of @UniNoticias asked @KamalaHarris saying an unethical comment’.
According to her LinkedIn page, Lopez is an Emmy-winning journalist who has worked for Univision Noticias 23, the Spanish-language network’s Miami station, for more than 17 years.
Jose Zamora, Senior Vice President for Univision News, told DailyMail.com that Univision’s correspondent in Mexico City, Jesica Zermeño, was in the room at the time.
Photographs of her at the same press conference have been shared online.
‘The person has no relationship with Univision,’ Zamora told DailyMail.com.
‘No idea who she is. And correct, our Mexico correspondent Jesica Zermeño was there.’
Harris’s press secretary Sanders told DailyMail.com on Tuesday night that they were looking into the incident, amid questions over how Reyes was able to get so close to the world’s most powerful woman.
In response to Cornell’s clarification, Sanders tweeted: ‘Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are looking into this.’
On Reyes’ LinkedIn page, she says: ‘I am a fourth generation farmer and care about agriculture, food waste and supporting rural farmers, especially women rural farmers across the world.
‘I’m on a journey to empower farmers to reduce food loss and food waste through technologies and education.’
Security at press conferences involving the president and vice president is usually high, with multiple layers of accreditation required.
Serious questions will be asked as to how Reyes managed to attend.
Some said the incident drew parallels with a December 2008 press conference in Baghdad, when an Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush.
Al-Zaidi shouted at the outgoing president: ‘This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog.’
He served nine months in prison, and now works for a Lebanese television station.
Harris was in Mexico City on Tuesday to meet with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s president.
She hit back at questions about when she would visit the southern border on Tuesday, saying it was ‘short-sighted’ to focus on the symptoms and not the root causes of the migrant crisis as she wrapped up her visit to Guatemala and Mexico.
She was dogged throughout her trip with questions about when she would go to the border with Mexico to see for herself the scale of the problem. And she let her frustrations show.
At a news conference in Mexico City she shrugged off the idea.
‘I think it’s short-sighted, for any of us who are in the business of problem solving to suggest we’re only going to respond to the reaction as opposed to addressing the cause,’ she said.
Conservatives have sought to saddle Harris with problems at the border ever since President Joe Biden asked her to take the lead in diplomatic efforts to stem the flow of migrants.
They have dubbed her the ‘border czar,’ criticized her for not holding a press conference on the issue and demanding that she visit the Mexico-U.S. frontier.
For weeks she has sought to portray her job as one that was focused on addressing the root causes of migration – from violence to corruption and poverty.
She stuck to the themes during her two-day trip as she spelled out her approach.
‘I also believe that if you want to fix a problem. You have to go to where the problem exists,’ she said in Mexico City, some 500 miles from the border.
‘If you want to address the needs of a people, you must meet those people. You must spend time with those people.’
And she said, as a politician from California, she was well aware of the issues at the border.
Vice President wrapped up her two-day trip to Guatemala and Mexico with a news conference at a Mexico City hotel. Questions about when she would visit the southern border dogged her during the trip but she responded by saying it was ‘short-sighted’ to focus on the ‘reaction’ and not the ’cause’ of a problem
Speaking to reporters in Mexico City, Harris said: ‘I also believe that if you want to fix a problem. You have to go to where the problem exists. She was due to return to Washington D.C. on Tuesday evening
Harris’ first international trip included stops in Guatemala and Mexico, 1,308 and 582 miles away respectively from the Rio Grande, where families risk their lives every day trying to cross into the U.S.
Earlier she snapped at reporters for allowing the border crisis to overshadow her first international trip.
‘Why not go to the border, as well, so you do see the full complexity?’ a reporter asked Harris as she took some questions following a bilateral meeting with Lopez Obrador.
‘Listen, I’ve been to the border before and I’ll go again,’ she said with an awkward laugh.
‘But when I’m in Guatemala, dealing with root causes, I think we should have a conversation about what’s going on in Guatemala,’ she said – even though she is in Mexico.
Harris held bilateral talks with Lopez Obrador during her trip to Mexico on Tuesday. The duo discussed stopping mass immigration from Central America by way of migrating through Mexico.
The vice president said the ‘bottom line’ was that the administration had to apply ‘equal weight’ to what’s going on at the border and ‘root causes’ in Northern Triangle nations.
Republicans argue, however, that there is not equal attention since she nor President Joe Biden have gone to the southern border to see the humanitarian crisis first hand.
Harris, however, visited Guatemala and Mexico to see for herself what sort of ‘root causes’ the U.S. can help address there.
Ahead of her bilateral meeting with Lopez Obrador, Harris said the U.S. and Mexico are ’embarking on a new era’.
When asked if Lopez Obrador would commit to increasing border security in Mexico, he said: ‘We are very pleased to have her here and we will touch on that subject but always addressing the fundamental root causes.’
Vice President Kamala Harris lashed out when reporters again brought up the southern border during her trip to Mexico on Tuesday. ‘Listen, I’ve been to the border before and I’ll go again. But when I’m in Guatemala, dealing with root causes, I think we should have a conversation about what’s going on in Guatemala,’ she said with a laugh– even though she is in Mexico
Kamala Harris and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had a bilateral meeting in Mexico City on Tuesday as the vice president still refuses to visit the southern border but says the U.S. is ’embarking on a new era’ of relations
Although both Harris and Lopez Obrador are vaccinated, the vice president masked up for the meeting