Aug 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump says he won't pursue Kamala Harris birth smear

Trump speaking on Aug. 15.
Trump speaking on Aug. 15. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump told reporters Saturday his presidential campaign will "not be pursuing" a baseless claim that Sen. Kamala Harris, Joe Biden's running mate, may be ineligible to serve as vice president because both her parents were not naturalized citizens at her birth.

Why it matters: Harris was born in Oakland, California. She is an American citizen and is eligible for the office. Critics, including some Republicans, denounced an op-ed published by Newsweek this week as a new attempt at "birtherism" — the conspiracy theory that President Obama was not actually born in the U.S. — targeting the first woman of color on a presidential ticket.

“It’s not something that we will be pursuing” Trump said of Harris’ eligibility to serve as VP.

But, but, but: When pressed on Saturday, the president refused to say affirmatively that Harris is in fact eligible.

Driving the news: Newsweek on Friday apologized for article, saying it "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."

What he's saying: "I have nothing to do with that," Trump said of the op-ed. "I read something about it, and I will say he's a brilliant lawyer," referring to the author of the editorial. "...so, I know nothing about it, but it's not something that bothers me."

  • "It's not something we will be pursuing. Let me put it differently, to me, it doesn't bother me at all. I don't know about it. I read one quick article. The lawyer happens to be a brilliant lawyer."
  • "If she's got a problem, you'd have thought that she would have been vetted by Sleepy Joe," Trump added.
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