CHICAGO (AP) — False claims that Kamala Harris is not legally eligible to serve as U.S. vice president or president have been circulating in social media posts since 2019, when she first launched her Democratic primary campaign.
As a person born in the U.S., at least 35 and a resident for at least 14 years, she is eligible for the nation's highest office as prescribed in the Constitution.
President Donald Trump has elevated the conspiracy theory that Harris is ineligible, citing the claim on Thursday without weighing in on its validity and then on Saturday refusing to say whether he believes the California-born senator does or doesn't meet the constitutional requirements of the office he holds.
“I have nothing to do with it. I read something about it,” Trump said Saturday during a news conference. He added: “It's not something that bothers me. ... It's not something that we will be pursuing.” Asked point blank if Harris is eligible, Trump replied: “I just told you. I have not got into it in great detail."
A look at the claim:
THE CLAIM: Harris is ineligible to serve as vice president or president because her mother is from India and her father is from Jamaica. Trump said Thursday that he “heard" the California senator doesn't meet the requirements, adding, “I have no if idea that’s right.”
THE FACTS: That’s false. Harris was born on Oct. 20, 1964, in Oakland, California, according to a copy of her birth certificate, obtained by The Associated Press.
Her mother, a cancer researcher from India, and her father, an economist from Jamaica, met as graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley.
Since she was born on U.S. soil, she is considered a natural born U.S. citizen under the 14th Amendment, and she is eligible to serve as either the vice president or president, Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
“Full stop, end of story, period, exclamation point,” Levinson said.
There is “no serious dispute” in the legal community around the idea that someone born in the U.S. can serve as president, said Juliet Sorensen, a law professor at Northwestern University.
“The VP has the same eligibility requirements as the president,” Sorensen said. “Kamala Harris, she has to be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old, and a resident in the United States for at least 14 years. She is. That’s really the end of the inquiry.”
However, Newsweek published an op-ed written by John Eastman, a conservative attorney who argues that the Constitution doesn’t grant birthright citizenship. Eastman sowed doubt about Harris’ eligibility based on her parents’ immigration status. After receiving heavy criticism for publishing the piece, Newsweek defended its decision only to reverse course and apologize.
The false claims first started circulating on social media in 2019, during Harris’ presidential campaign, and they were revived against last week, days ahead of her selection as Biden's running mate. Facebook posts falsely said she would not be eligible to take over for Biden, because her parents were both immigrants.
“I can’t believe people are making this idiotic comment,” Laurence Tribe, a Harvard University professor of constitutional law, told The Associated Press at the time. “She is a natural-born citizen and there is no question about her eligibility to run.”
Trump was a high-profile force behind the so-called “birther movement” — the lie that questioned whether President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, was eligible to serve. Only after mounting pressure during his 2016 campaign did Trump disavow the claims.