Newsweek Apologizes for Op-ed About Kamala Harris’s Eligibility

Kamala_Harris Laughs, Applauds
AP Photo/Steven Senne

Newsweek apologized Saturday for publishing an op-ed by law professor John Eastman arguing that Kamala Harris may not be eligible to be vice president because her parents may not have been U.S. citizens at the time of her birth in 1964 in Oakland, California.

Eastman’s op-ed triggered a media frenzy, with the press asking President Donald Trump about it at multiple press conferences. Trump has said that he is aware of the article but had not taken an interest.

In an editor’s note, Newsweek said the op-ed had triggered “racism and xenophobia” because of how some people had used it (original emphasis):

Editor’s note, 8/14: This op-ed is being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia. We apologize. 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.

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. Readers hold us accountable for all that we publish, as they should; we hold ourselves accountable, too. We entirely failed to anticipate the ways in which the essay would be interpreted, distorted and weaponized.

As we said in our earlier note, this essay was an attempt to examine a legal argument about the difference between “natural born” and “naturalized,” the latter being ineligible to hold the office of president. In the days since the op-ed was published, we saw that it was being shared in forums and social networks notorious for disinformation, conspiracy theories and racist hatred. All of us at Newsweek are horrified that this op-ed gave rise to a wave of vile Birtherism directed at Senator Harris. Many readers have demanded that we retract the essay, but we believe in being transparent and are therefore allowing it to remain online, with this note attached.

Newsweek had also published an op-ed responding to Eastman’s arguments, arguing that Harris is eligible.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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