UPDATED: 1:39 p.m. ET —
More information is coming to light about the author of a controversial op-ed published by Newsweek that is being called racist and “birtherism 2.0.” John C. Eastman, a law professor, wrote the opinion piece that disingenuously tried to cast doubt on whether Kamala Harris is eligible to be vice president based on the citizenship of her parents instead of the senator’s actual birthplace of California.
The op-ed was published Wednesday, but some precious context that was missing from that piece and another one from Newsweek’s editors defending the op-ed was being revealed on social media Thursday.
Among that contextual information is the fact that Eastman ran a losing political campaign seeking the Republican nomination for California’s attorney general that would have pitted him against Harris in the 2010 general election, according to data from Ballotpedia. Somehow, that disclosure was missing from both Eastman’s op-ed and Newsweek’s subsequent defense of it.
There was also the case of there being a tweet for everything, as shown by Eastman’s twitter activity that showed him openly supporting Donald Trump, someone who has made no secret of his contempt for Harris.
Not to be outdone, a former Newsweek reporter brought attention to the apparent conflict of interest with the publication’s opinion editor, Josh Hammer and Eastman having a shared association with the Claremont Institute, a conservative nonprofit organization encouraging a “return to the principles of the American Founding.”
Not that divulging that information to readers would have lessened the blow of what came across as a low-hanging piece of racist fruit disguised as an op-ed written in earnest. However, alerting readers to those clear conflicts of interest certainly could have contextualized Eastman’s racism against a sitting U.S. senator on the verge of becoming the first Black woman vice president in American history.
Meanwhile, Newsweek published another op-ed Thursday afternoon bearing the headline, “Yes, Kamala Harris is eligible to be vice president.”
Newsweek has come under fire for publishing an op-ed questioning whether Kamala Harris, a sitting U.S. senator who just so happens to be Black, is eligible to serve as the vice president of the United States based on the circumstances surrounding her birth. While the embattled publication has offered up a mean culpa of sorts denying the allegations, law professor John C. Eastman’s words spoke for themselves in an op-ed that ran Wednesday morning with the headline: “Some Questions for Kamala Harris About Eligibility.”
Eastman’s op-ed suggested that even though Harris was born in Oakland, California, she was not, by his interpretation, a “natural born citizen” because of her parents’ citizenship at the time of her birth. Harris’ mother was an Indian citizen and her father was a Jamaican national when their eldest daughter was born in 1964. That fact, Eastman attempts to argue, throws into question whether Harris’ birth was “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States.
“Such was the view of those who authored the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause,” Eastman wrote.
Eastman cited a Supreme Court case involving a Chinese family as his purported legal precedent and seemingly conceded that “our government’s view of the Constitution’s citizenship mandate has morphed over the decades to what is now an absolute “birth on the soil no matter the circumstances” view.” But, Eastman added, “that morphing does not appear to have begun until the late 1960s, after Kamala Harris’ birth in 1964.”
When Eastman promoted his work on Twitter, he tweeted in part that “it depends” if Harris is eligible to be vice president.
Newsweek quickly issued a statement insisting the op-ed had nothing to do with birtherism and denying that it was “an attempt to ignite a racist conspiracy theory around Kamala Harris’ candidacy.” Newsweek’s managing editor, Nancy Cooper, and its opinion editor, Josh Hammer, wrote that they “share our readers’ revulsion” at the notion of birtherism.
However, some former staffers (and probably a few current ones, too) spoke out and condemned the op-ed in no uncertain terms, including ex-Newsweek columnist Kurt Eichenwald, who suggested he has witnessed racist activity in the company’s office but not in print — until now.
“It is beyond disgusting that @Newsweek has allowed its pages to be used as the opening shot of birtherism 2.0,” Eichenwald tweeted Wednesday. “I have been embarrassed by many things my former employer has done and become, but this is the first time I have seen racism appear in its pages.”
To be sure, yes, Harris is perfectly eligible to run for, be elected and serve as the nation’s vice president as well as the commander in chief. Citing the Cornell Legal Information Institute, USA Today reported, “Parental citizenship is relevant to an individual’s citizenship status only if the individual is born outside of the United States.”
Likewise, Snopes, the fact-checking website, debunked any theory questioning Harris’ eligibility to serve in the highest levels of American government.
If this is your first time hearing someone questioning Harris’ American citizenship, you’re not alone. The op-ed came off as xenophobic attack that people across social media were labeling as just plain racist. It also provided echoes from the 2008 presidential campaign when then-candidate Barack Obama was given the same racist treatment by the likes of Donald Trump and even, at one point, Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign.
Of course, that effort was all for naught as Obama beat Arizona Sen. John McCain in record numbers in 2008, making him the first Black president of the United States. And if the results from the fruitless birtherism attacks on Obama was any indication of what the future holds, the U.S. will also have its first Black vice president in just a few short months.
Harris, as well as other women Biden was considering to be his running mate, have already come under sexist attacks by detractors who called them too ambitious. Now that Biden has chosen Harris, it would be naive to expect anything less as the election season progresses.
This is America.