In his first one-on-one interview since the inauguration, Doug Emhoff defended Vice President Kamala Harris against Republican attacks and said she "probably" has been treated differently because she is a woman of color.
The first second gentleman in U.S. history spoke with NBC News chief White House correspondent and Weekend TODAY co-anchor Peter Alexander during a visit to Chicago to promote COVID-19 vaccinations.
Emhoff was asked if Harris has been treated differently after becoming the first woman and the first woman of color to be elected vice president.
"Probably, but so what? She has faced challenges as a groundbreaker her whole career," Emhoff said. "When you're breaking barriers, there's breaking involved, and breaking means you might get cut sometimes, but that's OK. It's worth it because she's leaving a path for others."
Emhoff spoke with Alexander shortly after the White House announced Wednesday that Harris will make a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time since being elected. Congressional Republicans and former President Donald Trump have criticized her for not visiting sooner and claim she is only doing it now because a group of House Republicans are making a trip to the border with Trump next week.
Harris visited Guatemala earlier this month aiming to address the root causes of the migration north.
"Look, Kamala Harris is not driven by any political issues or political pressure," Emhoff said. "She's really just doing what the right thing is to do for this very important job that the president entrusted her with.
"No one wants to see anyone they love attacked or criticized, but that's part of what she signed up for in this life of public service, and she has spent her entire career in public service as a lawyer in elected positions, so look, it's part of the territory."
Emhoff left his own successful career as a lawyer in California to support Harris in her political ambitions.
"Men have to step up and step up for the people that they love and actually show it," he said. "It’s manly to love and care about others."
There was a specific moment on Jan. 19 at the Lincoln Memorial when it sunk in for Emhoff that he was part of history, one day before Harris and President Joe Biden were inaugurated.
"It was the COVID memorial on the Lincoln steps and the reflecting pond, and that's when it really hit me," he said. "Oh my goodness, this is really happening."
Emhoff has also experienced the limelight for lighter moments, like going viral on TikTok on Inauguration Day for a video showing him struggling to determine which side of Harris to stand on, and being caught on camera blowing kisses to Harris ahead of Biden's joint address to Congress in April.
"Sometimes she and I will look at each other and I'll say to her, 'You're the vice president of the United States,' and she'll say, 'You're the second gentleman of the United States,''' Emhoff said. "It is a little surreal but again, you have to keep those moments as a couple and that was just us."
Emhoff was also asked about the possibility of one day becoming the nation's first "first gentleman" if Harris runs for president.
"We're two people who are not talking about that," he said. "We've spent zero seconds talking about that. Just so focused on the task at hand."