19.05.2022

Trump refuses to refute racist birther claim about Kamala Harris promoted by his campaign

Donald Trump has refused to refute his campaign’s discredited theory that Kamala Harris is not eligible to serve as vice president because her parents were not US citizens when she was born in the country.

The president’s campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis recently told ABC News that the California senator’s eligibility is ”an open question, and one I think Harris should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible”.

The senator, recently unveiled as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden‘s running mate, was born in California and is a US citizen.

But the president said he has “no idea” whether claims made by his campaign official, who shared a Newsweek column that promoted the conspiracy, are true. He also asked whether she’s not eligible to run because she was not born in the US, which is false.

The president infamously promoted a conspiracy that Barack Obama, his predecessor, was not born in the US, igniting a “birther” movement that invoked American Islamophobia and racism. He began demanding then-president Obama show his birth certificate in 2011 and disputed the authenticity of the president’s birth certificate across several media appearances for several years. He didn’t acknowledge that Mr Obama was born in the US until 2016, months before his election.

In Newsweek, right-wing law professor John C Eastman doubted whether the 14th Amendment – which plainly states that “all persons born or naturalised in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens” – applied to Senator Harris.

Ms Harris was born in Oakland, California, on 20 October 1964. Constitutional scholars and the US Supreme Court have established precedent that people born in the US are citizens and therefore eligible to serve as president and vice president. She is the first black woman and first person of South Asian descent to run on a major political party’s top ticket.

Ms Ellis shared a tweet on Thursday from Tom Fitton, president of conservative group Judicial Watch, in which he asked whether the senator is “ineligible to be Vice President under the US Constitution’s ‘Citizenship Clause’”. The tweet included a link to the Newsweek column.

The article has been widely derided as racist pandering.

“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” the president said on Thursday. “And, by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very qualified, very talented lawyer. I have no idea if that’s right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president. But that’s very serious.”

“This is what racism sounds like,” said candidate Mr Biden’s senior adviser Symone Sanders.

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