August 17, 2020
Few Americans have forgotten the completely unfounded “birther” conspiracy theory that Donald Trump spread about his predecessor, President Barack Obama. That same incendiary and false storyline is now being promoted by the Trump White House against Senator Kamala Harris (D-California).
Indeed, the 45th president now is asserting that the presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee—who was born in Oakland, California, in 1964, several years after her parents had immigrated from India and Jamaica—is not eligible for the vice presidency or presidency because of her lineage, The New York Times reports.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, August 13, Trump nevertheless pushed forward with the attack—so reminiscent of the lie he perpetrated for years that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
“I have no idea if that’s right,” he added about the statement he had just made. “I would have thought, I would have assumed, that the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”
Trump appeared to be referring to a widely discredited op-ed article published in Newsweek by John C. Eastman, a conservative lawyer who has long argued that the United States Constitution does not grant birthright citizenship.
By contrast to his outrageous claims about Obama, this time around, “Trump has legions of followers who have been spreading similar theories about Harris,” the Times reports.
In the hours after Joe Biden announced Harris as his running mate, a new crop of memes and conspiracy website postings began proliferating online, suggesting that Harris was an “anchor baby,” a disparaging term for a child born in the United States to immigrants.
But constitutional law scholars say that the immigration status of Harris’s parents at the time of her birth is irrelevant because, under the Constitution, anyone born in the United States automatically acquires citizenship.
The 14th Amendment makes it clear: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
In an interview with the Times on Thursday, Laurence Tribe, a professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, compared Eastman’s idea to the “flat earth theory” and called it “total B.S.”
Mr. Tribe pointed out that the theory still quickly landed in the hands of a president who has used his pulpit to spread a number of conspiracies against his political enemies, particularly those who do not have white or European backgrounds.
Research contact: @nytimes