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Kamala Harris joins the Spin Room after the second Democratic primary debate on June 27. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Several Democratic presidential candidates defended fellow 2020 contender Sen. Kamala Harris on Saturday against false online accusations about her race and U.S. citizenship — with many calling the attacks racist.

The big picture: A social media researcher, cited in the NYT and BuzzFeed, aggregated at least 12 tweets questioning Harris' race during the first Democratic primary debate, saying "it has all the signs of being a coordinated/artificial operation." Gary Wilmot, a self-described "birther" conspiracy theorist, made accusations about Harris' race in 2017 — sentiments shared by the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website.

Donald Trump Jr. shared a tweet written by an "alt-right fringe figure" Friday that falsely claimed Harris "was not black enough to be discussing the plight of black Americans," per the New York Times. He deleted the tweet by the end of the night.

"Don's tweet was simply him asking if it was true that Kamala Harris was half-Indian because it's not something he had ever heard before. And once he saw that folks were misconstruing the intent of his tweet, he quickly deleted it."
— Don Jr.'s spokesman Andy Surabian's statement to the Times

Context: On debate night, Harris, who has a Jamaican father and Indian mother, drew on her childhood experiences with racial segregation to confront former Vice President Joe Biden on his opposition to federally mandated busing for school integration in the 1970s.

What they're saying:

  • Biden tweeted, "The same forces of hatred rooted in 'birtherism' that questioned Barack Obama's American citizenship, and even his racial identity, are now being used against Senator Kamala Harris. It’s disgusting and we have to call it out when we see it. Racism has no place in America."
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted, "The attacks against Kamala Harris are racist and ugly. We all have an obligation to speak out and say so. And it’s within the power and obligation of tech companies to stop these vile lies dead in their tracks."
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted, "Donald Trump Jr. is a racist too. Shocker."
  • Sen. Cory Booker tweeted, "Kamala Harris doesn’t have shit to prove."
  • Southbend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg tweeted, "The presidential competitive field is stronger because Kamala Harris has been powerfully voicing her Black American experience. Her first-generation story embodies the American dream. It’s long past time to end these racist, birther-style attacks."
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted, "These troll-fueled racist attacks on Senator Kamala Harris are unacceptable. We are better than this (Russia is not) and stand united against this type of vile behavior."
  • Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke tweeted, "There's a long history of black Americans being told they don't belong—and millions are kept down and shut out to this day. Kamala Harris is an American. Period. And all of us must call out attempts to question her identity for what they are: racist."
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted, "The coordinated smear campaign on Senator Kamala Harris is racist and vile. The Trump family is peddling birtherism again and it’s incumbent on all of us to speak out against it."
  • Rep. Tim Ryan tweeted, "The attack on Kamala Harris is racist and we can't allow it to go unchecked. We have a responsibility to call out this birtherism and the continued spread of misinformation."

Go deeper: Kamala Harris emerges from debate as Twitter victor

This article has been updated with new details, including comments by Democratic candidates who've defended Harris.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Army to award Purple Hearts to troops injured in Iran missile attack

Damage at Ain al-Asad military airbase housing U.S. and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar in January 2020. Photo: Ayman Henna/AFP via Getty Images

The Army has approved 39 more Purple Hearts for U.S. soldiers wounded in an Iranian military ballistic missile attack on an Iraq base in January 2020, the Army Times first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Most of these soldiers sustained brain injuries, per the Army Times. Then-President Trump dismissed their injuries at the time as "headaches" and "not very serious," sparking backlash from some veterans groups.

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.