An anti-LGBT+ right wing lawyer has been accused of racism after he pushed a bizarre birther conspiracy theory about vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
John Eastman, a well-known lawyer who has frequently argued against LGBT+ rights, claimed in a Newsweek article that Harris might not meet constitutional requirements to be vice president.
The right-wing lawyer questioned her eligibility for the position by referencing the 12th Amendment, which says that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of president shall be eligible to the office of vice president of the United States”.
He also referenced another article in the constitution which says that “no person except a natural born citizen… shall be eligible to the office of president”.
‘Birther’ conspiracy theory suggests that Kamala Harris is not a ‘natural born citizen’.
Harris was born in Oakland, California, making her a “natural born citizen” – but conspiracy theorists are claiming that her foreign born parents strip her of eligibility.
In his article, Eastman claimed that neither of Harris’ parents were US citizens at the time of her birth, making her “ineligible for the office”.
Eastman notes that both PolitiFact and Snopes have branded birther conspiracy theories about Harris “false” – yet he goes on to insist that both publications are incorrect.
“The language of Article II is that one must be a natural born citizen,” Eastman wrote.
“The original Constitution did not define citizenship, but the 14th Amendment does – and it provides that ‘all persons born… in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens’.”
Eastman, in his wide-ranging article, argued that Harris may not qualify as a natural born citizen if her parents were not permanent residents at the time of her birth.
The article prompted swift backlash on social media, with many branding Eastman’s article as racist.
Newsweek editors Nancy Cooper and Josh Hammer later wrote a note to readers in which they defended Eastman’s column from accusations of racism.
“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,” they 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 so-called ‘birther-ism’, the racist 2008 conspiracy theory aimed at delegitimising 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.”
The lawyer has faced sharp criticism over his comments.
Eastman has faced significant backlash online, with many people questioning and criticising his arguments.
As a I discovered a couple of years ago by reading the Congressional debates over the 14th Amendment, one should never rely on anything John C. Eastman says about the history of birthright citizenship https://t.co/SeZlDwkpal
— Justin Fox (@foxjust) August 13, 2020
This is probably one of the most stupid and racist things I’ve seen all week, and to beat Trump at stupid and racist takes some doing
— Denise Oliver-Velez (@Deoliver47) August 13, 2020
I’ll summarize: you’re racist trash. If she was a white candidate, you would never have embarrassed yourself this way.
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) August 13, 2020
As well as pushing conspiracy theories, Eastman has a long history of promoting anti-LGBT+ ideas.
He is the chair of the board of the anti-LGBT+ equality National Organisation for Marriage, and has called homosexuality an indicator of “barbarism”.
Eastman also attacked the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage the law of the land, calling it “illegitimate”.
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