President Donald Trump on Thursday peddled a factually baseless and racist conspiracy theory that Sen. Kamala Harris isn't eligible to be vice president.
"I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements," Trump said during a White House briefing in response to a question about Harris' citizenship. The question referred to an op-ed essay in Newsweek that falsely claims the California senator is ineligible to serve as president because her parents came to the U.S. from other countries.
Harris is a U.S. citizen who was born in Oakland, California. Her mother emigrated from India and her father from Jamaica.
Facebook has flagged claims about Harris' citizenship posted on its site as false, and constitutional law experts swiftly shut down the conspiracy theory, noting that the U.S. Constitution is clear.
“To serve as president, one must be at least 35 years old, have been a resident of the United States for at least 14 years, and be a ‘natural born Citizen’ (Article II, sec. 1 of the Constitution). Additionally, one cannot have already been president for more than a term and a half (22nd Amendment)," Josh Chafetz, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who specializes in constitutional law, told the website FactCheck.org.
Chafetz called the conspiracy “racist nonsense.”
Harris, who made her first appearance as former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate on Wednesday, is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman on a major party ticket. She has served in the Senate since 2017 after a six-year stint as California's attorney general and seven years as the San Francisco district attorney.
Trump previously circulated citizenship lies about former President Barack Obama, the country's first Black president, during his election runs in 2008 and 2012.
Biden's camp rebuked the Trump campaign, which has also pushed the conspiracy and questioned Harris' identity.
"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," Andrew Bates, a campaign spokesperson, said in a statement on Thursday.
"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."