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Newsweek apologizes for op-ed questioning Kamala Harris’ eligibility

The apology falls short of reader demands to retract the article

After online outrage on social media networks Chief Editor at Newsweek Nancy Cooper issued an apology to readers Friday:

This op-ed is being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia. We apologize. The essay, by John Eastman, was intended to explore a minority legal argument about the definition of who is a “natural-born citizen” in the United States. But to 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.

The op-ed was never intended to spark or to take part in the racist lie of Birtherism, the conspiracy theory aimed at de-legitimizing Barack Obama, but we should have recognized the potential, even probability, that that could happen. Readers hold us accountable for all that we publish, as they should; we hold ourselves accountable, too. We entirely failed to anticipate the ways in which the essay would be interpreted, distorted and weaponized.

As we said in our earlier note, this essay was an attempt to examine a legal argument about the difference between “natural born” and “naturalized,” the latter being ineligible to hold the office of president. In the days since the op-ed was published, we saw that it was being shared in forums and social networks notorious for disinformation, conspiracy theories and racist hatred. All of us at Newsweek are horrified that this op-ed gave rise to a wave of vile Birtherism directed at Senator Harris. Many readers have demanded that we retract the essay, but we believe in being transparent and are therefore allowing it to remain online, with this note attached.

Josh Hammer, Opinion Editor
Nancy Cooper, Global Editor in Chief.

The weekly news magazine has seen a string of different ownership in recent years after declining revenue and readership.

The apology was written by Nancy Cooper and signed off on by opinion editor Josh Hammer. The essay was penned by the former dean of Chapman University, law professor John C. Eastman, who lost a race for District Attorney in California to Kamala Harris.

After publication the essay was weaponized by Donald Trump and some of his supporters. The president refused to denounce the theory of Harris’ eligibility promulgated by Eastman at a press conference last week.

“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump answered. “I have no idea if that’s right. I would have thought, I would have assumed, that the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”

Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California.

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