I knew President Donald Trump and Cult 45 would throw everything but the kitchen sink at Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris. I also recognized that many of the attacks would be based on her ethnic background, because white nationalism is a core part of Trumpism and the modern-day GOP. Still, I was surprised when Harris was hit with a birther smear. MSNBC commentator Zerlina Maxwell called birtherism repackaged racism.
Newsweek prints right-wing Lies
Last week, Newsweek, a once-liberal publication, made the idiotic decision to run a column claiming Harris was ineligible to serve as president because she wasn’t a natural-born citizen since her parents were immigrants. The column, which should go down in 2020’s Hall of Shame of bad journalism, was written by Chapman University law professor John C. Eastman, a former Harris opponent. But more importantly, it was factually incorrect. Harris was born in Oakland, Calif. making her a natural-born citizen and eligible to serve as president. Georgetown University law professor Josh Chafetz called the claim “racist nonsense.”
But that didn’t stop Internet trolls and Trump from turning it into a smear campaign. Posts soon started circulating on Facebook, the home of every rancid conspiracy theory, claiming she wasn’t eligible to run for president. And of course, the conspiracy-theorist-in chief amplified it.
“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” said Trump during a White House press conference. He also said he was “going to look into it.” Look into what? It’s a lie. There is no there, there!
Like the Obama birther lie, the Harris smear can be shut down with a simple question. Do you think Obama or Harris could have risen to their positions, president and senator respectively, with fraudulent backgrounds? Don’t you think one of their opponents would have pointed it out early in their political career and shot them down?
Weaponizing a conspiracy theory
By refusing to shut down the lie, Trump fell back on his old tactic of weaponizing a conspiracy theory. In today’s climate, every ridiculous idea gets amplified, no matter how outlandish.
People still believe Obama was born in Kenya, even though there’s plenty of evidence proving he was born in the United States. Four years after his presidency ended, right-wing nuts are still repeating that lie! However, Trump also used conspiracy theories to target enemies such as Sen. John McCain, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.
Like the Obama birther lie, the Harris smear can be shut down with a simple question. Do you think Obama or Harris could have risen to their positions, president and senator respectively, with a fraudulent background? Don’t you think one of their opponents would have pointed it out early in their political career and shot them down?
Many Americans will believe anything
But apparently, thousands of Americans have no critical thinking skills and will believe anything. Majorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon nut who has a good chance of winning a Georgia congressional seat, seems to believe every ridiculous idea. (She was exposed as a 9/11 truther, birther and COVID-19 truther.) Like Greene, too many Americans don’t bother to fact check, can’t reason and can’t discern reliable sources. It also doesn’t help when a so-called credible publication such as Newsweek publishes garbage conspiracy theories.
Newsweek has to take much of the blame. An editor should have flagged it and said this article contains incorrect information. There aren’t always two sides to the story. Sometimes there’s facts and lies. And credible journalists don’t print lies!
Newsweek gave the smear credibility
According to The Daily Beast, Newsweek finally apologized for running the article after three weeks of internal protests.
“This op-ed is being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia. We apologize,” according to an editor’s note. “[T]o 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.”
A source from inside Newsweek claimed the article was clickbait, published to drive traffic to the site.
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However, the editorial seems to be right-wing propaganda inserted into the news cycle by a once-legitimate news publication. Also, Newsweek recently hired Josh Hammer, a right-wing activist and former Ted Cruz aide, as opinion editor.
But the decision to run a fake editorial provided Trump and his cultists another weapon to beat up on a Democratic politician. It’s beginning to look like 2016 all over again.
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