19.05.2022

Trump fuels racist birther claim about Kamala Harris after it is promoted by his campaign

Donald Trump has repeated his campaign’s discredited theory that Kamala Harris is not eligible to serve as vice president because her parents may not have been 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.

Mr Trump was asked about the discredited claims after his campaign official shared a Newsweek column repeating them. He told reporters he had “no idea” if they were true but that “I just heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements.”

He then went further than even the Newsweek column, suggesting falsely that Ms Harris was not born in the US. “”But that’s a very serious, you’re saying that, they’re saying that she doesn’t qualify because she wasn’t born in this country,” Mr Trump said.

The president infamously promoted a conspiracy theory that his predecessor Barack Obama 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 own 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. “This is what racism sounds like,” said candidate Mr Biden’s senior adviser Symone Sanders.

But Mr Trump told reporters he supported the law professor in question. “And, by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very qualified, very talented lawyer,” he said. ”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.”

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