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 HarrisAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties Conservative commentator rips Shapiro over criticism of people with multiple jobs 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 WarrenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Manufacturing shrinks, raising questions for Trump Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties 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 Inslee13 states file lawsuit over Trump 'public charge' rule Harris unveils plan to combat domestic terrorism 2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally MORE (D) said, referring to the conspiracy theory that former President Obama was not born in the U.S.

Former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite MORE, who had a contentious exchange with Harris during Thursday's debate, also likened the smears against Harris to the "birther" theories against Obama.

"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) John RyanThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Head of flight attendants group claims 'broad support' for 'Medicare for All' among union members 2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally MORE (D-Ohio) said.

.@KamalaHarris doesn’t have shit to prove,” Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Steve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination We need a climate plan for agriculture MORE (D-N.J.), one of only three black candidates in the presidential race, tweeted.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPoll: Nearly 4 in 5 say they will consider candidates' stances on cybersecurity The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment 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 ButtigiegVolatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape 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 Elizabeth GillibrandSteve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination The Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? King incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks 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 watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE Jr., who retweeted one such message before taking the post down. 

“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.