Newsweek Editors Finally Apologize Under Pressure For Racist Birther Op-Ed About Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., reacts during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., reacts during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Washington. The nation's intelligence ... Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., reacts during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Washington. The nation's intelligence chiefs, facing questions from Congress one day before former FBI Director James Comey provides his first public account of the events leading up to his firing, declined to describe conversations with President Donald Trump but said they had not been directed to do anything they considered illegal or felt pressured to do so. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) MORE LESS
|
August 15, 2020 5:27 p.m.

Newsweek editor-in-chief Nancy Cooper and opinion editor Josh Hammer have apologized after first publishing — and later defending — an op-ed that advanced a racist conspiracy theory that has been weaponized by the Trump campaign as a tactic to sow doubt about the eligibility of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to be vice president.

“We entirely failed to anticipate the ways in which the essay would be interpreted, distorted and weaponized,” the editors wrote in a note attached to the racist op-ed by conservative lawyer John Eastman.

Harris, the first Black woman and first Asian American to appear on a major party’s presidential ticket, is a U.S.-born citizen — but President Donald Trump on Thursday when asked if he accepted her eligibility appeared to defer to Eastman’s article, even falsely suggesting that Harris “may not meet the requirements.” 

Harris was born in Oakland, California, but Trump advanced the falsehood on Thursday that the Democratic lawmaker may not have been born in the United States. He called the claims peddled by Eastman’s theory which falsely suggests that the US Constitution doesn’t grant birthright citizenship “very serious.”

Giving credence to the claims to boost his own bid for re-election, Trump said that he held Eastman, the op-ed’s author, in high esteem, calling him a “very highly qualified and very talented lawyer.” 

After a first wave of backlash on Twitter, comparing the claims made by Eastman to another racist conspiracy theory that falsely argued former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and not Hawaii, the Newsweek editors first defended the op-ed’s publication in an editor’s note  claiming the piece had “no connection whatsoever” to the false claims made about Obama.

“No one is questioning Harris’ place of birth or the legitimacy of an obviously valid birth certificate,” the editors wrote at the time.

Hammer joined Newsweek’s opinion team in May, after working as editor-at-large at Ben Shapiro’s conservative outfit, The Daily Wire. He was also a fellow at the Claremont Institute — the conservative organization where Eastman is a senior fellow and founding director of its Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. Salon points out that Claremont contributors have defended some of Trump’s most overtly racist comments. The chair of its board of directors, Thomas Klingenstein even called Trump in 2018 “our most important truth teller.”

Hammer and Cooper finally apologized late Friday following pressure on social media and from staffers who wanted the op-ed retracted, according to the Daily Beast. Without retracting the piece, the editors offered an apology in a note attached to the racist birther column, which is still live, acknowledging regret that the op-ed was “being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia.”

 

Support The TPM Journalism Fund
  • Contributions allow us to hire more journalists
  • Contributions allow us to provide free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • Contributions support independent, non-corporate journalism
Comments
advertisement
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer:
SPECIAL DEAL FOR PAST TPM MEMBERS
40% OFF AN ANNUAL PRIME MEMBERSHIP
REJOIN FOR JUST $30