Democrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE on Thursday drew swift backlash after he declined to disavow a baseless and racist conspiracy theory that Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act What Kamala Harris' VP nomination means to us Harris slams Trump's Supreme Court pick as an attempt to 'destroy the Affordable Care Act' MORE (D-Calif.) would not be eligible to serve as vice president.

Trump at a news conference was asked about an op-ed in Newsweek that was shared by an adviser to his campaign that raised the possibility Harris, who was born in Oakland, Calif., to immigrant parents, does not meet the requirements to hold the office.

The president, who spent much of then-President Obama's time in office pushing the racist and unfounded "birther theory" that he was not born in the United States, said he had "no idea" if Harris was ineligible to run for vice president.

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"I just heard that. I heard it today, that she doesn’t meet the requirements," he said. "And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, talented lawyer."

"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," he continued. "I don’t know about it. I just heard about it. I’ll take a look."

Trump was referencing a Newsweek column by John Eastman, a conservative attorney who called into question the citizenship status of Harris's parents at the time of her birth. The column was retweeted by Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign adviser.

Harris is eligible to hold the office of vice president. She is the first woman of color to be named to a major party's presidential ticket.

Democrats and some Trump critics were quick to hammer the president for entertaining the conspiracy theory about the senator.

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"Donald Trump was the national leader of the grotesque, racist birther movement with respect to President Obama and has sought to fuel racism and tear our nation apart on every single day of his presidency," said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign. "So it’s unsurprising, but no less abhorrent, that as Trump makes a fool of himself straining to distract the American people from the horrific toll of his failed coronavirus response that his campaign and their allies would resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation."

Democratic lawmakers quickly piled on, accusing Trump of trafficking in racism.

"White supremacy is a belief system based on the idea that ppl of color, esp Black ppl, are fundamentally illegitimate as equal citizens or human beings," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWill Democrats attempt to pack the Supreme Court again? On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline McCarthy says there will be a peaceful transition if Biden wins MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted. "Calling into question the citizenship of elected officials of color, esp when the answer is obvious, is one way it manifests."

"Oh look, @realDonaldTrump doubling down on racism again, this time a repeat of his racist birther stuff," Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuThe spin on Woodward's tapes reveals the hypocrisy of Democrats Larry Kudlow defends response to coronavirus: Trump 'led wisely' Lieu on Trump 'playing it down' on coronavirus: 'This is reckless homicide' MORE (D-Calif.) tweeted. "That’s the only thing @POTUS has left: racial grievance politics. He failed at the economy. He failed at the pandemic. He failed at health care.He’s going to lose in Nov."

"Trump's birtherism was racist in 2011. Trump's birtherism is racist in 2020. It really is that simple," Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted.

Meghan McCainMeghan Marguerite McCainKasich to Meghan McCain: Concern over abortion 'dwarfed' by need to beat Trump Meghan McCain says she believes report Trump called fallen soldiers 'losers' Meghan McCain hits Ivanka Trump's defense of president's Twitter: It's not a 'communication style,' it's 'cruelty' MORE, who has been an ardent Trump critic, called the conspiracy theory part of a "gross, dark trend in American politics about birth qualification which is all clear and obvious." She noted that her father, the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCrenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat Analysis: Biden victory, Democratic sweep would bring biggest boost to economy The Memo: Trump's strengths complicate election picture MORE (R-Ariz.), faced similar attacks because he was born on a military base.