Newsweek is defending itself after falling under fire for an op-ed offering “some questions” over whether Sen. Kamala Harris, the American-born daughter of immigrants, could serve as president. The criticism is not only for the content — which is being called racist and reminiscent of anti-Obama birtherism — but because of who wrote it: Dr. John Eastman, who ran in the Republican primary to be California’s attorney general in 2010. Harris, a Democrat, won that race.
Newsweek global editor in chief Nancy Cooper posted a lengthy editor’s note defending the piece in the early hours of Thursday morning.
“Some of our readers have reacted strongly to the op-ed we published by Dr. John Eastman, assuming it to be an attempt to ignite a racist conspiracy theory around Kamala Harris’ candidacy,” she wrote. “Dr. Eastman was focusing on a long-standing, somewhat arcane legal debate about the precise meaning of the phrase ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ in the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. His essay has no connection whatsoever to co-called ‘birther-ism,’ the racist 2008 conspiracy theory aimed at delegitimizing then-candidate Barack Obama by claiming, baselessly, that he was born not in Hawaii but in Kenya. We share our readers’ revulsion at those vile lies.”
Readers did, in Cooper’s words, react “strongly” to the original op-ed, especially after some started to share that Eastman wrote a similar piece in 2016 about Canadian-born Ted Cruz — but definitively said Cruz could be president, where he said Harris’ eligibility “depends” on interpretation of the Constitution.
Author Kurt Eichenwald tweeted Wednesday, “Not only did you print this birtherism-on-steroids racist crap, @newsweek, but you failed to disclose this guy ran against Harris and lost AND wrote an article in national review saying exact opposite about Canadian born Ted Cruz. When did Newsweek become both racist AND stupid?”
“It seems pertinent that neither @NancyCooperNYC nor Eastman himself thought readers should know Eastman ran in the GOP primary against Harris for AG in 2010. Seems both a conflict of interest and, you know, unethical, @Newsweek,” added journalist Victoria Brownworth.
Cooper’s message noted that “leading law schools have long entertained debates between competing scholars about the original public meaning of the Citizenship Clause.”
She went on, “The issue discussed in these debates, and contested by Dr. Eastman, is whether birthright citizenship (jus soli, birth by soil), as opposed to merely citizenship by parentage (jus sanguinis, that is, citizenship by citizenship of one’s parents at time of birth), is textually mandated. Again, scholars can, and do, disagree on this point.”