The White House and the Trump campaign on Sunday held back from bolstering a birther conspiracy that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is ineligible to run for office — which President Trump first stoked during a press conference on Thursday — but blamed the media for reporting on the baseless assertion instead.
On Thursday, Trump said that he had heard that Harris, who was born in California and is set to become the first Black and South Asian woman to appear on a major presidential ticket, “doesn’t meet the requirements” to be vice president because she wasn’t born an American citizen. The President’s surfacing of the conspiracy theory appeared to reference an op-ed by John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University, published in Newsweek. On Friday, Newsweek issued an editor’s note apologizing for Eastman’s op-ed advancing the racist conspiracy theory that has been weaponized as a tactic by the Trump campaign.
Although Trump initially said that he’d “look into” Harris’ eligibility to run for office, he told reporters on Saturday that the conspiracy theory attacking Harris’ VP eligibility is “not something we will be pursuing,” but stopped short of debunking the baseless claim. The President’s latest remarks on the conspiracy came a day after his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner denied to CBS News that the President’s remarks were “promoting it,” but that “at the end of the day, it’s something that’s out there.”
In an interview released on Sunday in TheGrio, Harris said that she expects the President and his re-election campaign to “engage in lies” and “deception” after his remarks stoking the conspiracy theory.
“They’re going to engage in an attempt to distract from the real issues that are impacting the American people. And I expect that they will engage in dirty tactics,” Harris told TheGrio. “And this is going to be a knockdown, drag-out. And we’re ready.”
On Sunday, White House chief of staff and Trump campaign officials wouldn’t promote the conspiracy aimed at discrediting Harris, but blamed the media for reporting on it instead.
Here’s what Trumpworld had to say:
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows
Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper that “this is not something that we’re going to pursue,” backing Trump’s remarks to reporters the day before.
The White House chief of staff then took aim at the media for its reporting on the birther conspiracy theory targeting Harris.
“Actually, Jake, you and a number of the media, y’all have spent more time on it than anybody in the White House has talking about this,” Meadows said. “I’m more concerned with Kamala Harris’ liberal ideas coming from San Francisco to the rest of America than where she was born or anything else.”
When asked whether Harris is eligible to be vice president, Meadows repeatedly said “yes.”
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller
When asked about the President stopping short of shooting down the birther conspiracy theory against Harris the day before, Miller defended Trump by saying that he’s “made very clear, it’s not something that he’s brought up” and that “it’s something that media keeps bringing up” during an interview on ABC News.
“It is not something that anyone in our campaign is talking about,” Miller said. “The President said that he doesn’t — it’s not something that we’re pursuing, not something that we’re interested in.”
Miller declared that “in our opinion, it is case closed, end of story” and once again blamed the media, before going on to deny that Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis’ retweet of a link to the Newsweek op-ed floating the conspiracy theory on Harris speaks for the campaign.
“(Ellis) wasn’t speaking for the campaign, I am,” Miller said.
.@GStephanopoulos: Why can’t President Trump clearly, unequivocally say Kamala Harris is eligible to run?
As Trump fans false, racist birther theory, Jason Miller says campaign believes Harris is eligible: “In our opinion it is case closed, end of story.” https://t.co/2ABKsXMlfb pic.twitter.com/pgNoDtW53W
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) August 16, 2020
Trump campaign senior adviser Steve Cortes
During an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Cortes flat-out denied that Trump nor his re-election campaign brought up the birther conspiracy theory against Harris, before predictably blaming the media.
“He never brought this up, the campaign never brought it up,” Cortes said. “Members of the media have asked him about it, are trying to create a controversy that simply doesn’t exist.”
Cortes added that he doesn’t know why “it’s incumbent upon (Trump) to opine on legal scholarship of the Constitution” and argued that the President is saying “we have not made an issue of this, we will not make an issue of this.”