Controversy erupted late Tuesday when a purported Univision reporter told Vice President Kamala Harris, prior to asking her a question, that she voted for Harris in the 2020 election.
During a news conference in Mexico City, Harris' press secretary Symone Sanders called on a woman that she identified as "Maria Fernanda from Univision," who was one of only five people called on for questions.
The alleged reporter said:
Thank you, madam vice president. For me, it's an honor because I actually got to vote for the first time as a naturalized citizen, and 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?
Harris responded, "That's a great question, and thank you."
The incident immediately triggered criticism online for a myriad of reasons.
Not only do journalism ethics encourage reporters to abstain from participating in partisan activity, including voting, but journalism ethics certainly prohibit a reporter from displaying clear bias.
What did Univision say?
Daniel Coronell, president for U.S. news at Univision, responded by denying the woman identified as "Maria Fernanda from Univision" was, in fact, Maria Fernanda from Univision.
"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 @KamalaHarris," Coronell tweeted. "Let it be clear to everyone that Ms. Maria Fernanda Reyes is not part of this media organization."
Coronell's denial that the alleged reporter was one of his employees prompted security concerns. How could a civilian be misidentified as a credentialed media member?
Who was the woman?
The name of the woman who asked Harris a question is Maria Fernanda Reyes.
"Reyes, a San Francisco Bay area entrepreneur, said she spends much of her time traveling and works with farmers in the U.S., Mexico and India. Reyes was in Mexico City Tuesday assisting Mayan farmers and working with the country's poor to help them navigate COVID-19 when she was asked by fellow entrepreneurs to attend the vice president's event," Fox News reported.
Univision, however, does have a Miami-based reporter named Maria Fernanda Lopez.
"My name is Maria Fernanda LOPEZ, I have never traveled in my life to Mexico. I was in Miami during the incident where a lady named Maria Fernanda REYES was presented by mistake as a Univision reporter, which is incorrect," Lopez told Fox News.
Jose Zamora, senior vice president for Univision News, said that Univision did have a reporter in the room at the time, Mexico City correspondent Jesica Zermeño.
What did Harris' team say?
Despite the case of ethical concern turning out to be, seemingly, a case of mistaken identity, serious questions remain about how Maria Fernanda Reyes managed to gain access to the room.
Neither the White House nor Harris' office has addressed the incident, aside from Sanders saying that her team is "looking into" the incident.