June 14, 2021

An incident at a June 8, 2021, press conference with Vice President Kamala Harris in Mexico City turned heads among journalists and non-journalists alike. But what appeared to be a breach of professional ethics turned out to be a case of misidentification.

During the news conference, a woman who was introduced by Harris’ chief White House spokesperson Symone Sanders as “Maria Fernanda at Univision,” told Harris before asking a question, “For me it’s an honor, because I actually got to vote for the first time as a nationalized citizen, and I voted for you.”

Harris appeared grateful, but some in the media were piqued by the apparent ethical breach. News reporters for mainstream networks are generally barred by ethics codes from publicly expressing their political leanings.

Los Angeles Times White House reporter Noah Bierman chided the questioner, tweeting, “Not sure I’ve ever seen a reporter tell a politician that she voted for her, as a Univision reporter just did during the Kamala Harris news conference before asking a question.”

But later in the day, Univision and White House personnel issued statements seeking to clear up what happened: The questioner, identified as Maria Fernanda Reyes, was not a Univision reporter — or a reporter at all.

Univision’s president, Daniel Coronell, tweeted: “Let it be clear to everyone that Ms. Maria Fernanda Reyes is not part of this media organization.”

A real Univision reporter with a similar name, Maria Fernanda Lopez, tweeted to clarify that she was not the one who asked the question at the press conference.

“I have never traveled to Mexico, I was in … Miami during the incident where Maria Fernanda REYES claimed to be a reporter of @UniNoticias [and] asked @KamalaHarris saying an unethical comment,” Lopez tweeted.

A White House official said the questioner had “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.”

José Zamora, Univision’s senior vice president of strategic communications and news, said Reyes was invited to the press conference due to her role in a research and education program at Stanford University called the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.

“She was called to make a question and introduced as a member of Univision,” Zamora said. “They introduced her incorrectly, and both her and the person that introduced her failed to make the necessary correction.”

Zamora pointed to a June 9, 2021, Univision interview with Reyes, where the mixup was clarified and corrected.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for these fact checks here and more of their fact checks here.

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Gabrielle Settles is a reporter covering misinformation for PolitiFact. Previously, she was a staff writer for The Weekly Challenger and staff member and reporter for…
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