Newsweek has apologized for an op-ed that questioned Sen. Kamala Harris´ U.S. citizenship and her eligibility to be Joe Biden´s running mate, a false and racist conspiracy theory which President Donald Trump has not dismissed.
‘This op-ed is being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia. We apologize,’ read Newsweek’s editor´s note on Friday, which replaced the magazine’s earlier detailed defense of the op-ed.
‘We entirely failed to anticipate the ways in which the essay would be interpreted, distorted and weaponized,’ read the apology, signed by Josh Hammer, opinion editor, and Nancy Cooper, global editor in chief.
They attempted to distance themselves from the op-ed piece, titled ‘Some Questions for Kamala Harris About Eligibility,’ by disavowing its use in conservative media.
‘The op-ed was never intended to spark or to take part in the racist lie of Birtherism, the conspiracy theory aimed at delegitimizing Barack Obama, but we should have recognized the potential, even probability, that that could happen,’ they wrote.
‘All of us at Newsweek are horrified that this op-ed gave rise to a wave of vile Birtherism directed at Senator Harris.’
But they ended the note by saying that the op-ed would remain on the site, with their note attached.
The op-ed was written by John Eastman, a conservative attorney who argues that the U.S. Constitution doesn´t grant birthright citizenship.
Eastman sowed doubt about Harris´ eligibility based on her parents´ immigration status. Harris´ mother was born in India and her father was born in Jamaica.
Newsweek earlier defended the piece, arguing that Eastman ‘was focusing on a long-standing, somewhat arcane legal debate’ about the 14th Amendment and not trying to ‘ignite a racist conspiracy theory around Kamala Harris´ candidacy.’
But the theory is false. Harris, who was tapped by Joe Biden to serve as his running mate on the Democratic ticket, was born in Oakland, California, and is eligible for both the vice presidency and presidency under the constitutional requirements.
The question is not even considered complex, according to constitution lawyers.
The controversial article ran under Hammer, a former Ted Cruz aide, member of the Federalist Society and conservative Claremont Institute.
A number of Newsweek staffers spoke out against the piece and demanded in a letter that it be removed from the website
‘This is an inflammatory and racist op-ed that should never have been published. That is my opinion.’ wrote Christina Zhao, senior editor and breaking news reporter for Newsweek, wrote on Twitter.
Chantal Da Siva, a Newsweek correspondent in London, called the piece ‘devastating.’
‘To see this piece run on Newsweek’s website was beyond devastating. It is inaccurate and it is dangerous,’ she wrote.
‘Journalism should be about informing, not inflaming and certainly not about spreading baseless claims that can only fuel the flames of racism and hatred.’
Jason Lemon, a reporter for the publication, said on Friday that he appreciated the apology, but it didn’t negate the initial publication.
‘I’m glad to see my employer Newsweek issue this apology over the op-ed questioning Harris’ eligibility to be VP. But deeply disappointed it was published in the first place,’ he wrote.
But a former Newsweek staffer told The Daily Beast that the magazine owners and management are ‘are probably loving the clicks and the fact that it’s an editorial controversy unrelated to Jesus and Seoul.’
Trump built his political career on questioning a political opponent´s legitimacy.
He was a high-profile force behind the ‘birther movement’ – the lie that questioned whether President Barack Obama, the nation´s first Black president, was eligible to serve.
Only after mounting pressure during his 2016 campaign did Trump disavow the claims.
After the Newsweek op-ed was published, Trump’s campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis promoted the ‘birther’ conspiracy on Twitter.
When asked about the tweet, Ellis said ‘it’s an open question, and one I think Harris should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible,’
Asked about the matter at the White House on Thursday, Trump told reporters he had ‘heard’ rumors that Harris does not meet the requirement to serve in the White House. The president said he considered the rumors ‘very serious.’
President Donald Trump fanned the flames of yet another ‘birther’ conspiracy theory by telling White House reporters Thursday that he had ‘no idea’ if Kamala Harris was eligible to be vice president.
The president added that the Republican lawyer who wrote a Newsweek op-ed pushing that claim ‘is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer.’
Right-wing law professor John C. Eastman wrote an editorial Wednesday that argued that because Harris’ parents weren’t citizens when she was born in 1964 in Oakland, California then she might not fit the definition of eligibility under the U.S. Constitution.
A number of Constitutional experts said that was flat-out false and Harris’ defenders called it racist.
Georgetown University Law Center professor Josh Chafetz told FactCheck.org Eastman’s op-ed was nothing but ‘racist nonsense.’
Eastman had run for California attorney general in 2010, the same year as Harris, but was beaten in the GOP primary, while she won the race.
But a tweet sharing the editorial was retweeted by the Trump campaign’s Senior Legal Advisor Jenna Ellis.
‘It’s an open question, and one I think Harris should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible,’ Ellis later told ABC News.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign never answered DailyMail.com’s inquiry on whether the campaign backed Ellis’ statement.
At the Thursday briefing, Trump was asked by a reporter whether he could ‘definitively say’ Harris was eligible since she was a ‘anchor baby,’ a negative term for immigrants who have children in the U.S. so that they can achieve citizenship.
‘So I just heard that. I heard it today. That she doesn’t meet the requirements and by the way the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer,’ the president answered. ‘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 went on, adding that the unfounded claims were ‘very serious.’
He then asked the reporter to explain what Harris’ problem was.
‘You’re saying that, they’re saying that she doesn’t qualify because she wasn’t born in this country?’ Trump asked.
The journalist replied explaining that Harris’ parents were born abroad and weren’t citizens at the time of her birth in the U.S.
‘I don’t know about it, I just heard about it, I’ll take a look,’ Trump said.
His comments echoed the sentiments he pushed about President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president.
Businessman Trump was one of the most prominent voices to push the ‘birther’ conspiracy about Obama, doing so in early April 2011.
Trump, who was mulling taking on Obama in the 2012 election, made a number of bogus claims including that Obama’s ‘certificate of live birth’ was not an actual ‘birth certificate.’
The president was trying to push the racist narrative that Obama was born in Africa, where his black father was from.
Obama countered at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in late April by jokingly showing the audience his ‘official birth video’ – the opening scenes of Disney’s ‘The Lion King.’
But days earlier, in a move that showed Obama took the political threat seriously, the White House released the president’s long form birth certificate.
It wasn’t until Trump was running in 2016 that he admitted that Obama was born in the United States – though he also claimed, falsely, that it was Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign that started the ‘birther’ conspiracy theory to begin with.
Harris is the second person of color to appear on a major party’s presidential ballot and the second Democratic politician in recent years that Republicans have tried to suggest was born outside the U.S.