Newsweek has come under fire for publishing an op-ed questioning whether Kamala Harris, a sitting U.S. senator who just so happens to be Black, is eligible to serve as the vice president of the United States based on the circumstances surrounding her birth.
While the embattled publication has offered up a mean culpa of sorts denying the allegations, law professor John C. Eastman’s words spoke for themselves in an op-ed that ran Wednesday morning with the headline: “Some Questions for Kamala Harris About Eligibility.”
The apparent birtherism op-ed was the latest attack in what is expected to be a steady increase of racist dog-whistling as Harris and Joe Biden‘s historic campaign moves forward.
Eastman’s op-ed suggested that even though Harris was born in Oakland, California, she was not, by his interpretation, a “natural born citizen” because of her parents’ citizenship at the time of her birth. Harris’ mother was an Indian citizen and her father was a Jamaican national when their eldest daughter was born in 1964. That fact, Eastman attempts to argue, throws into question whether Harris’ birth was “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States.
“Such was the view of those who authored the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause,” Eastman wrote.
Eastman cited a Supreme Court case involving a Chinese family as his purported legal precedent and seemingly conceded that “our government’s view of the Constitution’s citizenship mandate has morphed over the decades to what is now an absolute “birth on the soil no matter the circumstances” view.” But, Eastman added, “that morphing does not appear to have begun until the late 1960s, after Kamala Harris’ birth in 1964.”
When Eastman promoted his work on Twitter, he tweeted in part that “it depends” if Harris is eligible to be vice president.
Newsweek quickly issued a statement insisting the op-ed had anything to do with birtherism and denying that it was “an attempt to ignite a racist conspiracy theory around Kamala Harris’ candidacy.” Newsweek’s managing editor, Nancy Cooper, and its opinion editor, Josh Hammer, wrote that they “share our readers’ revulsion” at the notion of birtherism.
However, some former staffers (and probably a few current ones, too) spoke out and condemned the op-ed in no uncertain terms, including ex-Newsweek columnist Kurt Eichenwald, who suggested he has witnessed racist activity in the company’s office but not in print — until now.
“It is beyond disgusting that @Newsweek has allowed its pages to be used as the opening shot of birtherism 2.0,” Eichenwald tweeted Wednesday. “I have been embarrassed by many things my former employer has done and become, but this is the first time I have seen racism appear in its pages.”
To be sure, yes, Harris is perfectly eligible to run for, be elected and serve as the nation’s vice president as well as the commander in chief. Citing the Cornell Legal Information Institute, USA Today reported, “Parental citizenship is relevant to an individual’s citizenship status only if the individual is born outside of the United States.”
Likewise, Snopes, the fact-checking website, debunked any theory questioning Harris’ eligibility to serve in the highest levels of American government.
If this is your first time hearing someone questioning Harris’ American citizenship, you’re not alone. The op-ed came off as xenophobic attack that people across social media were labeling as just plain racist. It also provided echoes from the 2008 presidential campaign when then-candidate Barack Obama was given the same racist treatment by the likes of Donald Trump and even, at one point, Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign.
Of course, that effort was all for naught as Obama beat Arizona Sen. John McCain in record numbers in 2008, making him the first Black president of the United States. And if the results from the fruitless birtherism attacks on Obama was any indication of what the future holds, the U.S. will also have its first Black vice president in just a few short months.
Harris, as well as other women Biden was considering to be his running mate, have already come under sexist attacks by detractors who called them too ambitious. Now that Biden has chosen Harris, it would be naive to expect anything less as the election season progresses.
This is America.
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