President Donald Trump on Thursday fanned the flame surrounding a false racist conspiracy theory that Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), the Democratic vice presidential nominee who was born in California, was not eligible to serve as vice president because her parents were immigrants.
Trump told reporters during a White House news conference Thursday that he had “heard” rumors that Harris, a Black and Asian American woman, who is a U.S.-born citizen does not meet the requirements for the vice presidency, adding that the claims were “very serious.”
“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said when asked about Harris’ eligibility, likely referring to a widely discredited claim made in a Newsweek op-ed by conservative lawyer John Eastman that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t grant birthright citizenship.
“I have no idea if that’s right,” Trump added. “I would have thought, I would have assumed, that the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”
The claim made by Eastman, and advanced by Trump, that Harris is ineligible to serve is not true.
Harris’s parents, were working academics hailing from Jamaica and India, who met as grad students while at UC Berkeley before Harris was born in Oakland in 1964. But even the status of the Democratic vice presidential nominee’s parents at the time of her birth are irrelevant to her eligibility to be vice president since the Constitution guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the United States.
Constitutional law scholars, debunking the claim, have pointed out the unwavering clarity of the 14th Amendment which states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
Trump used similar tactics to try to deny the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency — using a race-based and anti-immigrant attack to suggest for years that the former President was born in Kenya not Hawaii.
This time, the President’s own reelection campaign’s legal adviser, Jenna Ellis, shared the controversial Eastman column in a tweet. Trump defended the column hours later saying the op-ed had been written by a “very highly qualified and very talented lawyer.”
Newsweek has denied claims that the op-ed is tied to birtherism. Global editor-in-chief Nancy Cooper and opinion editor Josh Hammer said in an editor’s note that Eastman’s essay has “no connection whatsoever” to the false claims made about Obama, adding that the issues raised by Eastman were not meant to deny facts or make false claims.
“No one is questioning Harris’ place of birth or the legitimacy of an obviously valid birth certificate,” the editors wrote.