Newsweek apologizes for Kamala Harris op-ed

Newsweek has apologized after an op-ed it published about Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee, drew an avalanche of criticism that it perpetuated a racist conspiracy theory about her eligibility to be vice president.

The magazine added an editor’s note late Friday to a piece authored by Chapman University law professor John Eastman in which he suggested Harris, who was born in Oakland, was not a natural-born citizen because her parents were immigrants.

“Before we so cavalierly accept Senator Harris’ eligibility for the office of vice president, we should ask her a few questions about the status of her parents at the time of her birth,” he wrote.

The decision to publish the op-ed sparked swift backlash, with critics claiming the magazine had opted to spread a racist “birther” theory similar to the one President Trump leveled against former President Obama for years.

“This op-ed is being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia. We apologize,” Josh Hammer, Newsweek’s opinion editor, and Nancy Cooper, its global editor-in-chief, wrote in the note attached to the op-ed on Friday.

“The essay, by John Eastman, was intended to explore a minority legal argument about the definition of who is a natural-born citizen’ in the United States. But to many readers, the essay inevitably conveyed the ugly message that Senator Kamala Harris, a woman of color and the child of immigrants, was somehow not truly American,” they continued.

“The op-ed was never intended to spark or to take part in the racist lie of Birtherism, the conspiracy theory aimed at delegitimizing Barack Obama, but we should have recognized the potential, even probability, that that could happen,” they added. “All of us at Newsweek are horrified that this op-ed gave rise to a wave of vile Birtherism directed at Senator Harris.” 

Hammer and Cooper wrote that they had heard calls to take down the piece but said they decided to leave it up with their note in order to be “transparent.”

The clarification marks the culmination of a dayslong controversy that was heightened this week when Trump was asked about the op-ed’s claims, responding that “the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, talented lawyer” and that he had “no idea if that’s right.”

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who holds significant sway in both the White House and Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, spent Friday defending Trump, saying he was not “promoting” the birther conspiracy and accusing the media of perpetuating a false narrative.

“Right now, you’re the one spreading that disinformation. The president was at a coronavirus briefing, he was asked by a reporter about a report in Newsweek, and his words were, ‘I don’t know anything about that.’ And since then, the media has been going wild, basically saying he was pushing a theory. I’ll take him at his word that he said he doesn’t know anything about that, and that’s what he said,” Kushner said Friday afternoon on CNN.

Tags Barack Obama Donald Trump Jared Kushner

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