WASHINGTON – Lawmakers and pundits Thursday criticized President Donald Trump for entertaining questions raised about the eligibility of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to run for vice president, as “very serious.”
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's choice of Harris as his running mate was historic, making her the first Black woman and first Asian American person on a major party's presidential ticket.
Trump was asked about a column from a conservative law professor who questioned her eligibility, and responded, "I just heard it today that she doesn't meet the requirements and by the way the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer."
Trump continued that he has "no idea" whether the online birther lies are true, and asked the reporter if she was saying Harris wouldn't qualify because the Senator "wasn't born in this country?"
After the reporter clarified the conspiracy was based on her supposed ineligibility because of her parents' citizenship, he vowed "to look into it."
By virtue of her birth in California, Harris, who is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, is a natural-born U.S. citizen, meaning she is allowed to be both president or vice president.
The column about Harris was retweeted by Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign adviser.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden's campaign, said the president "was the national leader of the grotesque, racist birther movement with respect to President Obama and has sought to fuel racism and tear our nation apart on every single day of his presidency."
Trump was a leading voice in the "birther movement," which insisted former president Barack Obama was constitutionally ineligible to serve as president because he was not born in the U.S. He pushed the conspiracy theory particularly hard in 2011, eventually prompting the White House to release the president's birth certificate.
"So it’s unsurprising, but no less abhorrent, that as Trump makes a fool of himself straining to distract the American people from the horrific toll of his failed coronavirus response that his campaign and their allies would resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation," Bates continued.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted: "White supremacy is a belief system based on the idea that ppl of color, esp Black ppl, are fundamentally illegitimate as equal citizens or human beings" and that questioning Harris' citizenship "is one way it manifests."
White supremacy is a belief system based on the idea that ppl of color, esp Black ppl, are fundamentally illegitimate as equal citizens or human beings.
Calling into question the citizenship of elected officials of color, esp when the answer is obvious, is one way it manifests.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 13, 2020
Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., tweeted: "Trump's birtherism was racist in 2011. Trump's birtherism is racist in 2020. It really is that simple."
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said that "the only thing" Trump has left is "racial grievance politics."
Meghan McCain called the conspiracy theory part of a "gross, dark trend in American politics about birth qualification which is all clear and obvious."
McCain, daughter of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who ran as the Republican nominee against Obama in 2008, noted that her father faced similar skepticism as he was born on a military base.
Donna Brazile, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, posted, "We must speak up and denounce this 'unpatriotic' attack on a fellow American citizen and the elected United States Senator from California."
Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden, tweeted, "This is what racism sounds like."
This is what racism sounds like. https://t.co/A3EpuYHIjI
— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) August 13, 2020
Contributing: Camille Caldera, William Cummings
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Reaction to Trump's comments about baseless Harris birther conspiracy