Friday, August 14, 2020
"Racist Conspiracy Theory"? Controversy Over Republican Claim that Kamala Harris is Not Eligible to Be President
Is Kamala Harris eligible for the office of Vice President? Here's my article, published by Newsweek, exploring the issues. Short answer: It depends! https://t.co/A2K08EBUYu— John Eastman (@DrJohnEastman) August 12, 2020
In a sad development on the political scene, Professor, and former Dean, John Eastman (Chapman) has published commentary in no less than Newsweek suggesting that Senator Harris is ineligible to be President because she is not a natural born U.S. citizen, even though it is undisputed that she was born in the United States. It is nothing less than an embarrassing argument -- with no resemblance to what one would expect of a law professor at a national law school. Newsweek has been harshly criticized for publishing Eastman's commentary.
Eastman's claim about Harris is consistent with his claim (and here) that the U.S. Constitution does not automatically grant birth-right citizenship. Eastman's birth-right citizenship argument finds extremely few supporters in legal academia.
Eastman's commentary generated many critical responses. Conservative UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh quickly offered the opposing argument here. Others (and here, here, and here), including my colleague Jack Chin, have joined in.
Katie Rogers for the New York Times ("Trump Encourages Racist Conspiracy Theory About Kamala Harris") takes President Trump to task for suggesting that Eastman's half-baked theory had credence. She writes:
"In an interview . . . , Laurence H. Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, compared Mr. Eastman’s idea to the `flat earth theory' and called it `total B.S.'
`I hadn’t wanted to comment on this because it’s such an idiotic theory,' Mr. Tribe said, `There is nothing to it.'
Mr. Tribe pointed out that the theory still quickly landed in the hands of a president who has used his pulpit to spread a number of conspiracies against his political enemies, particularly those who do not have white or European backgrounds.
During the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Trump continuously questioned the citizenship of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, suggesting that his Canadian roots would be a problem should he win the presidency. Mr. Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, is a United States citizen. Mr. Eastman, for his part, wrote that year that Mr. Cruz was eligible.
But Mr. Trump was relentless about questioning Mr. Obama’s background. In 2011, he began appearing on television to question whether Mr. Obama was born in the United States — spreading the lie he has never fully apologized for."
UPDATED (AUG. 16): Mark Kennedy for the Associated Press reports that
"Newsweek has apologized for an op-ed that questioned Sen. Kamala Harris’ U.S. citizenship and her eligibility to be Joe Biden’s running mate, a false and racist conspiracy theory which President Donald Trump has not dismissed.
`This op-ed is being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia. We apologize,' read Newsweek's editor’s note . .. . , which replaced the magazine's earlier detailed defense of the op-ed."
UPDATED (AUG. 18): In "Scholars' Letter on Senator Kamala Harris’s Eligibility" on Balkinization, a group of leading constitutional law professors rebut the claim that Kamala Harris is not constitutionally eligible for the presidency.