It’s hard to believe that President Trump could be asked a question about a conspiracy theory regarding Kamala Harris not being eligible to be vice president, tell the reporter, “Yeah, I don’t know about it, I just heard about it,” and then be accused of promoting that conspiracy theory.
But this is the mainstream media we’re talking about here.
Anyone who watches the exchange during Trump’s Thursday press conference or reads the transcript can see plain as day that 1) a reporter asked him about it, he didn’t bring it up, and 2) Trump repeatedly said he didn’t know about it.
But according to the media, Trump responding to a question about the conspiracy theory is no different than him “promoting” it.
“President Donald Trump once again drove the dignity of the American presidency into the ditch this week by raising a false and racist conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris, elevating the efforts of the alt-right to portray her as “other” because of her mixed-race heritage,” wrote Maeve Reston at CNN on Saturday.
While eventually the CNN report acknowledged that Trump was responding to a question about the Newsweek article that floated the theory, New York Times White House correspondent Katie Rogers’ report quite literally makes it sound as though Trump was the one who brought up the Kamala birther conspiracy theory during his press conference. It was actually a reporter who asked him about it, and Trump literally said multiple times he didn’t know about the claims.
President Trump on Thursday encouraged a racist conspiracy theory that is rampant among some of his followers: that Senator Kamala Harris, the presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee born in California, was not eligible for the vice presidency or presidency because her parents were immigrants.
That assertion is false. Ms. Harris is eligible to serve.
Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters on Thursday, nevertheless pushed forward with the attack, reminiscent of the lie he perpetrated for years that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Mr. Trump said of Ms. Harris.
“I have no idea if that’s right,” he added. “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.”
The BBC similarly misrepresented the circumstances of why Trump was even discussing the conspiracy theory at all. “President Donald Trump says he has ‘heard’ Democratic candidate Kamala Harris ‘doesn’t qualify’ to serve as US vice-president, amplifying a fringe legal theory critics decry as racist,” their report begins. It’s not until several paragraphs later, following a bunch of criticism and claims of racism,” that it is noted in the report that Trump “was asked about the argument at a press conference on Thursday.”
National Public Radio accused Trump of “amplifying” the birther conspiracy against Kamala Harris. In a tweet, they similarly suggested that Trump had brought up the issue, rather than point out that he twice said he didn’t know about the claims.
"I heard it today that she doesn't meet the requirements. I have no idea if that's right," President Trump said of Sen. Kamala Harris, the presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee.
It's not right. Harris was born in Oakland, Calif. She qualifies. https://t.co/H09qKK5rwJ
— NPR (@NPR) August 14, 2020
Christiane Amanpour repeatedly asserted that Trump was promoting the conspiracy while interviewing Jared Kushner, who accused her of spreading disinformation. Kushner repeatedly pointed out why it was wrong for her to suggest that, but she was undeterred, even asking Kushner if he would “apologize” on behalf of Trump for “him spreading the information.”
Christiane Amanpour falsely suggests multiple times that Trump promoted a birther conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris, is repeatedly corrected by Jared Kushner and still has audacity to ask for an apology for something that didn’t happen. pic.twitter.com/WcwfAIUMXy
— Matt Margolis 🇺🇸 (@mattmargolis) August 15, 2020
As expected, HuffPost also joined in, claiming that “it only took two days from the time Joe Biden announced Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate for President Donald Trump to begin entertaining a racist birther conspiracy about her.”
A report from ABC News was headlined, “Trump floats false, racist birther theory about Kamala Harris” and led off with the lie that “promoted a false and racist theory that Sen. Kamala Harris, the first woman of color on a major political party general election ticket, and who was born in California, is not eligible to be vice president because her parents were immigrants.”
The Los Angeles Times wrote that Trump “amplified a false claim” and accused him of “questioning Harris’ American citizenship” and “reviving the birther playbook.” All of these allegations are completely false.
CNN also “fact-checked” Trump for an allegation he never made.
On Twitter, a number of anti-Trump reporters perpetuated the falsehood that Trump was “promoting” birtherism, and naturally, countless other anti-Trumpers on social media are now convinced it is true.
But Brian Stelter doesn’t think anti-Trump media exists.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis