Donald Trump said that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) – who was without a doubt born in Oakland, California – doesn’t “meet the requirements” to be vice president and questioned whether she was “born in this country.” A Trump campaign lawyer is also a birther and is promoting the idea that Harris is too foreign to be on the Democratic ticket.
At a press conference, Trump was asked about a Newsweek column by a far-right, anti-LGBTQ activist that said that Harris isn’t eligible to be vice president because her parents were immigrants. The column claimed that Harris “owed her allegiance to a foreign power or powers” as a newborn because her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica and India.
Major fact-checking organizations like the AP, Snopes, and PolitiFact have all rated the claim false. The Constitution requires the president to be a natural-born U.S. citizen and says nothing about the citizenship or residence of their parents.
“I just heard that. I heard it today, that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said.
“And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer,” Trump said about the Newsweek column’s author John Eastman, chairman of the board of the anti-LGBTQ group National Organization for Marriage.
“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.”
Trump then took it one step further and questioned whether Harris was born in the U.S. at all, even though she was born in California.
“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?” he said.
The journalist explained that the claims are about Harris’s parents, and Trump said, “Yeah, I don’t know about it, I just heard about it. I’ll take a look.”
On Twitter, Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis – who supports conversion therapy and has said that HIV among gay and bi men is “God’s moral law and His supremacy” – retweeted a link to the Newsweek column, which Georgetown University Law Center Professor Josh Chafetz called “racist nonsense.”
Later, Ellis told CBS News that Harris’s eligibility is an “open question, and one I think Harris should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible.”
One of Trump’s earlier and better-known forays into politics was his prominent and years-long support for the racist conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not actually born in the U.S.and, therefore, wasn’t eligible to be president.
Trump claimed that an “extremely credible source” called him and told him that Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate was “a fraud.”
Obama even made his birth certificate public and Trump responded, “Some people say that was not his birth certificate. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows.”
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that someone who attacked the legitimacy of the first Black U.S. president would make similar claims about the first Black woman and Asian American on a major party’s presidential ticket.
And birtherism against Harris is almost the same as a form of birtherism used against Obama that claimed he was ineligible to be president because his father was born in Kenya.
The latter theory was the subject of a lawsuit when, in 2008, Steve Ankeny and Bill Kruse sued the state of Indiana to keep the state from counting votes for Obama. The two claimed that Obama’s father wasn’t a U.S. citizen, so “President Obama is constitutionally ineligible to assume the Office of the President.”
Their claim was dismissed and the Indiana Supreme Court rejected their request to hear their case, without comment.
In 2010, Eastman, the author of the Newsweek column, resigned from his position as Dean of the Chapman University School of Law to run in the GOP primary for California attorney general. He lost the primary and Harris ultimately won the general election as a Democrat.
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