2020 Democrats defend Harris over conspiracy theories about race, citizenship

A slate of Democrats running for president defended fellow White House contender Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Juan Williams: Black votes matter Clyburn: Biden 'suffered' from not doing 'enough' in early debates MORE (D-Calif.) after right-wing personalities and bots amplified conspiracies about her.

Apparent online bots promoted theories on social media after Thursday’s primary debate falsely claiming that the California Democrat, who is of Indian and Jamaican descent, is not black and is not a U.S. citizen.

“The attacks against @KamalaHarris are racist and ugly. We all have an obligation to speak out and say so. And it’s within the power and obligation of tech companies to stop these vile lies dead in their tracks,” Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCandidates face pressure to exit presidential race Buttigieg proposes undoing SALT deduction cap Bloomberg called Warren 'scary,' knocked Obama's first term in leaked audio MORE (D-Mass.) tweeted. 

“The coordinated smear campaign on Senator @KamalaHarris is racist and vile. The Trump family is peddling birtherism again and it’s incumbent on all of us to speak out against it,” Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeAndrew Yang ends presidential bid Bloomberg, Steyer focus on climate change in effort to stand out Our government and public institutions must protect us against the unvaccinated MORE (D) said, referring to the conspiracy theory that former President Obama was not born in the U.S.

Former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenSanders defends Castro comments in wake of backlash from some Democrats Klobuchar releases medical report that says she's in 'very good health' Candidates face pressure to exit presidential race MORE, who had a contentious exchange with Harris during Thursday's debate, also likened the smears against Harris to the "birther" theories against Obama.

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"The same forces of hatred rooted in 'birtherism' that questioned @BarackObama's American citizenship, and even his racial identity, are now being used against Senator @KamalaHarris. It’s disgusting and we have to call it out when we see it. Racism has no place in America," he tweeted. 

“There's a long history of black Americans being told they don't belong—and millions are kept down and shut out to this day. @KamalaHarris is an American. Period. And all of us must call out attempts to question her identity for what they are: racist,” former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) tweeted.

“The attack on @KamalaHarris is racist and we can't allow it to go unchecked. We have a responsibility to call out this birtherism and the continued spread of misinformation,” Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanDemocrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' Democrats walk out of Trump's address: 'It's like watching professional wrestling' Trump set to confront his impeachment foes MORE (D-Ohio) said.

.@KamalaHarris doesn’t have shit to prove,” Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats' Obama-to-Sanders shift on charter schooling This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Juan Williams: Black votes matter MORE (D-N.J.), one of only three black candidates in the presidential race, tweeted.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar releases medical report that says she's in 'very good health' Candidates face pressure to exit presidential race Buttigieg proposes undoing SALT deduction cap MORE (D-Minn.), who in the senate has sought to curb the influence of Russia on social media, said "We are better than this (Russia is not) and stand united against this vile behavior."

South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders defends Castro comments in wake of backlash from some Democrats Candidates face pressure to exit presidential race MORE said Harris' presence in the race made for a better campaign.

"The presidential competitive field is stronger because Kamala Harris has been powerfully voicing her Black American experience. Her first-generation story embodies the American dream. It’s long past time to end these racist, birther-style attacks," he tweeted.

"This is racism. It was wrong before, and it’s wrong now. We won’t allow it again," Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandNow is the time for a US data protection agency The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren up, Bloomberg down after brutal debate Ginsburg, accepting lifetime achievement award, urges working fathers to take an active role in kids' lives MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted.  

The conspiracy theories were mainly promoted by fringe personalities popular in far-right circles. But one about Harris not being black was boosted by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE Jr., who retweeted one such message before taking the post down. 

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“A lot of suspect accounts are pushing the 'Kamala Harris is not Black' narrative tonight. It’s everywhere and it has all the signs of being a coordinated/artificial operation,” social media researcher Caroline Orr tweeted after the debate. 

The Democratic primary race has gotten personal in the days leading up to this week’s debate, but all candidates have sought to prove themselves particularly attuned to race as they court an increasingly diverse base.