Birtherism is back, this time aimed squarely at Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. And the people charged with speaking for President Donald Trump on cable news are having a lot of trouble defending his inability to outright condemn the racist attacks on his rival.
It was the very first question that Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace had for senior Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes. “Does the Trump campaign, does President Trump acknowledge that Kamala Harris is eligible to be the next vice president of the United States?” he asked.
“Yes, he made this very clear in his press conference yesterday,” Cortes replied. “He said this is not an issue that we’re going to be pursuing.” Chief of Staff Mark Meadows used the exact same language in his interview Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper, saying: “This is not something that we’re going to pursue.”
Noting that Trump “didn’t strike down the claim,” Wallace said, “I’m asking about that because he was once again offered the opportunity to dismiss the false claim that because her parents were immigrants, that she is not eligible to run, even though she was born in the state of California.”
President Trump was given a second chance to fully denounce the suggestion that Sen. Harris, who was born in Oakland, California, might be ineligible. Instead of doing that, the president praised the “brilliant” author of the debunked op-ed that inflamed the story. “If she’s got a problem you would’ve thought that she would've been vetted by Sleepy Joe,” Trump added.
“Isn’t this just like the birther claims the president made against Barack Obama?” Wallace asked Cortes. “Nothing could be easier than to say it’s a false claim, she is eligible. Not to say, ‘Well, I’m not going to make an issue of it.’ Why not just say it’s wrong, it’s false?”
Cortes again insisted that Trump has made it “very clear” that he will not be “pursuing” these claims and pivoted to attack “the media” for making it an issue. But Wallace wasn’t satisfied.
“I’m just going to press it one more time,” the host said. “You can accuse me of being one of those media people. Why not say it’s wrong, she is eligible? It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m not going to pursue it.’ It’s a different thing to say, ‘It’s flat wrong, she’s eligible to be the vice president.’ Why doesn’t he say that?”
“I don’t know why it’s incumbent upon him to opine on legal scholarship of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment,” Cortes said in response.. “I don’t think that’s his place as president. What he is saying is, we have not made an issue of this, we will not make an issue of this. It’s a non-starter from our point of view, for the president and for the campaign.”
Similarly, on ABC’s This Week, Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller said that the issue of Harris’ eligibility is “case closed, end of story.” If that’s true, then we will never hear another word about it from President Trump again.