One of the biggest challenges facing Mark Harris Thursday as he took the stand in the North Carolina disputed election hearing was to discredit his son, whose testimony has been a body blow to the Republican candidate’s defense, while still coming across as sympathetic.
Harris’ son, John Harris, basically laid out a paper trail of evidence that he had warned his father about political operative McCrae Dowless’ potentially illegal tactics, and that his father hired him anyway.
Mark Harris tried to achieve this effect by mixing subtle put-downs and fatherly pride.
He said he was “very proud” of his son for testifying Wednesday, an appearance that reduced Mark Harris to tears in the courtroom.
He continued that John was only 27 years old when he delivered these warnings (though he added that his son was very bright for his age). Harris created further distance between his son and the local realities by adding that John was living in Washington, D.C. at the time, had never met Dowless and had never traveled to Bladen County (the area in which Dowless operated).
He gave his son kudos for ultimately being “prophetic” about the situation, but crafted the gulf between him and the situation on the ground in North Carolina to imply why he vested his trust with his local advisers.
Lawyers for the North Carolina Board of Elections pointed out a line in correspondence between Mark Harris and his son in which John Harris says: “The key thing that I am fairly certain they do that is illegal is that they collect the completed absentee ballots.”
Mark Harris said that he felt that was just his son’s “opinion.”
Later in his testimony, Harris got more pointed about his son, calling him “a little judgmental with a taste of arrogance” and repeating that he had never met Dowless in person.
“I love him with all my heart but this is a father and a son,” he said, concluding that he took his son’s warnings about Dowless as nothing more than a “family conversation.”