Kushner Panders To Trump’s New Racist Birther Crusade Against Harris

Senior Advisor Jared Kushner listens as Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with President Donald Trump before signing a presidential proclamation on Golan Heights at the White House on March 25, 2019.... Senior Advisor Jared Kushner listens as Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with President Donald Trump before signing a presidential proclamation on Golan Heights at the White House on March 25, 2019. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner refused to say on Friday whether or not the Trump campaign accepts that Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris is an eligible candidate for vice president following remarks by President Donald Trump on Thursday that she may not “meet the requirements.”

The President had claimed during a news conference on Thursday that he had heard a rumor that Harris — a U.S.-born citizen — may not have been born in the United States.

During a CBS interview on Friday morning, Kushner, who is also the President’s son-in-law, would not formally reject the racist conspiracy that Trump appeared to encourage the day before.

“He just said that he had no idea whether that’s right or wrong,” Kushner said when asked during a CBS interview whether the Trump campaign accepted Harris’ candidacy as legitimate. 

When asked on Thursday about Harris’ eligibility to serve as vice president, Trump appeared to defer to a Newsweek op-ed  by the conservative lawyer John Eastman who suggested, with regard to Harris, whose parents hail from Jamaica and India, that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t grant birthright citizenship. 

“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said, adding he had “no idea” if the claim was correct.

Trump called the claims peddled by the theory “very serious” and said that he held Eastman, the op-ed’s author, in high esteem, calling him a “very highly qualified and very talented lawyer.” 

When CBS News anchor Anthony Mason pressed Kushner on the matter Friday, Kushner said that he “personally had no reason” to believe that Harris was ineligible, without outright rejecting the claim as false. 

The false and racist theory is reminiscent of a line of attack used by the President to discredit his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who Trump suggested was born in Kenya, when in fact Obama was born in Hawaii. 

Perhaps even more problematic than the theory itself, which a Trump campaign legal adviser and many Trump followers posted to social media following the op-ed’s publication, is the President and his staff’s refusal to denounce the claims as false.

Kushner told Mason that the President had said he had “no idea” about whether or not the theory was true, which Kushner said he didn’t see “as promoting it.” 

But in 2008, the now late-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who vied for the presidency against then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, did not hesitate to publicly reject false claims amid growing anti-Arab prejudice around the country, when suggestions emerged that his opponent was “Arab.” McCain defended Obama even as crowds booed at a town hall meeting in Minnesota calling the Democratic candidate a “liar” and a “terrorist.”

“I want to fight, and I will fight,” McCain said at the time. “But I will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments, and I will respect him.”

McCain’s refusal in that moment to leverage a racist tactic to support his presidential bid is a far-cry from the race-baiting campaign that Trump made a hallmark of mobilizing his base in 2016 and appears to have relaunched as he advances falsehood regarding Kamala Harris in the 2020 election.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: