Newsweek was pushed into defending an op-ed questioning Kamala Harris’ eligibility for the position of vice president based on the 14th amendment after numerous critics slammed it as “racist birtherism.”
In a Wednesday op-ed titled ‘Some Questions for Kamala Harris Eligibility,’ Chapman University law professor John C. Eastman questioned Harris’ ancestry and whether it clashed with the language of the 12th amendment, which states in part: “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.”
Eastman cites the fact that Harris was born to two immigrant parents, her father from Jamaica and her mother from India, as the reason why she would not be a “natural born citizen” and, therefore, ineligible to hold the office of either president or vice president. Eastman, however, keeps a distance from this theory, claiming “some” critics have raised the question.
Though she has immigrant parents, Harris was born in California and is a citizen. According to the 14th amendment, which becomes the main focus of Eastman’s piece: “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
Eastman says some critics argue that birth alone within the US does not completely cover the citizenship clause in this amendment.
Following thousands of tweets slamming the op-ed as racist, Newsweek responded in an “editor’s note” on Thursday, claiming the op-ed “has nothing to do with racist birtherism.”
Newsweek editor-in-chief Nancy Cooper and opinion editor Josh Hammer argued that Eastman’s piece was meant as a deep-dive into “a long-standing, somewhat arcane legal debate about the precise meaning of the phrase ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ in the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment.” They argued the piece does not question Harris’ citizenship despite that being the exact takeaway many readers got from the story.
Nice try. Even if column is about an arcane 14th Amendment legal debate, you never explain why the “debate” is in context of Harris. The conclusion about her eligibility is “it depends.” There are a lot of arcane legal debates. Why this one? Why now? Just say you got played. https://t.co/d82LS9jm8V
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) August 13, 2020
Critics compared Eastman’s “deep dive” to the birther conspiracy theories surrounding former President Barack Obama when he ran for office. Critics claimed the president was ineligible to be president because he was born in Kenya, something that was never actually proven.
“Worse than nonsense, the garbage questioning the eligibility of Kamala Harris to serve as president is vicious and legally baseless BS. It’s racist #birtherism redux. Shame on any media outlet that gives it space or airtime,” Laurence Tribe, a Harvard University constitutional law professor, tweeted.
@NancyCooperNYC@Newsweek a poor defense. Eastman isn’t debating the 14th amendment so much as he’s questioning Harris’s loyalty to the US. It’s an age-old, racist argument that’s been hurled at immigrants and their descendants for far too long.
— Andrea (@ann12188) August 13, 2020
She was born in Oakland, California. She is a natural born citizen, and that’s the end of it. Any suggestion otherwise is literally just racism. 14th amendment, bitch https://t.co/j33TtlPrYW
— alex b (@yungdem2020) August 13, 2020
What makes Newsweek’s defense of the piece into the “somewhat arcane legal debate” is the fact that Eastman has a history with Harris. The two were both running for the position of attorney general in California in 2010, with Harris ending up on top.
First of all, yes, in fact it was a racist conspiracy theory. There’s no judge in America who accepts Eastman’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment.Second of all, Eastman was in the GOP primary to run against Harris for AG. How did Newsweek fail to disclose that to readers? https://t.co/IlDaOUjE5x
— Matthew Chapman (@fawfulfan) August 13, 2020
Critics also pointed to a past opinion article from Eastman that similarly went into the language in the 12th and 14th amendments. The focus was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who was born in Canada, who Eastman said was eligible to be president.
Not only did you print this birtherisn-on-steroids racist crap, @newsweek, but you failed to disclose this guy ran against Harris and lost AND wrote an article in national review saying exact opposite about Canadian born Ted Cruz. When did Newsweek become both racist AND stupid? https://t.co/2BbBRuVUyN
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) August 13, 2020
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