Newsweek apologizes for op-ed that questioned Kamala Harris' citizenship – The Guardian

Magazine’s opinion editor and editor-in-chief ended note by saying op-ed would remain on the site

Kamala Harris in Los Angeles, California, on 4 October 2019.




Kamala Harris in Los Angeles, California, on 4 October 2019.
Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

Newsweek has apologized for an op-ed that questioned the California senator Kamala Harris’ American citizenship and her eligibility to be Joe Biden’s running mate, a false and racist conspiracy theory which 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.

But the pair 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 US constitution doesn’t grant birthright citizenship. Eastman attempted to sow doubt about Harris’ eligibility based on her parents’ immigration status. Harris’ mother was born in India and her father was born in Jamaica.

Eastman ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 Republican primary as a candidate for California attorney general. Harris eventually won the election against Republican Steve Cooley.

Newsweek had earlier defended the piece, arguing that Eastman “was focusing on a longstanding, somewhat arcane legal debate” about the 14th amendment and not trying to “ignite a racist conspiracy theory around Kamala Harris’ candidacy”.

The conspiracy 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.

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 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.

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”.

Some Newsweek staff had publicly slammed the decision to run the oped. Christina Zhao, a New York news editor, tweeted: “This is an inflammatory and racist op-ed that should never have been published. That is my opinion.”

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