U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) joined Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom as they surveyed property damaged by wildfires raging across several Western states.
While they were not the first elected officials to be accused of staging a photo opportunity during a natural disaster, one property owner’s family took it a step further by accusing them of walking on the land without permission, as reported by KMPH.
“Chimneys remind me of tombstones”
Members of the family say the burned-out remains of their Auberry home was the backdrop for social media images used for political gain by Harris and Newsom.
“For the record, my parents haven’t even been let back in yet themselves, to sort through what is left of their lives, but these two felt the need to go traipsing around my parents’ property without permission,” wrote Trampas Patten, who identified himself as the property owners’ son.
He went on to express outrage that “those property taxes my parents pay allow politicians to do this” and declaring that private property “doesn’t exist” in the state anymore.
While dozens of wildfires torch countless acres of land, tens of thousands of impacted Americans have been rendered homeless and at least 30 have been killed, as reported by BBC News.
“The fire just swept through,” Harris, who is also campaigning as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, said while touring the damage in Fresno County, California, on Tuesday. “Those chimneys, they remind me — when you look at a neighborhood that’s been wiped out, those chimneys remind me of tombstones.”
“To push your agenda”
The fact that she used their family property to make that proclamation was an insult to Patten and his sister, Bailee.
“You never got my parents’ permission to go on our property, nor did you ask if we needed help,” Bailee Patten wrote. “What you did do is take my family’s loss and parade it all over social media and news networks to push your agenda.”
Even as evacuation orders prevent the owners from returning to their damaged property, the family asserted that Harris and Newsom were essentially trespassing on the land for partisan gain.
Newsom did not immediately respond to a local reporter’s request for comment while a Harris spokesperson said the senator’s office is “not going to have anything about that.”
These two leading Democrats are going to make it hard for anyone in the party to credibly accuse the president of staging photo ops, which has been a common refrain in recent months.