The New York Post on Tuesday quietly removed two of its articles falsely claiming that federal officials gave Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2019 children’s book to young kids held at migrant shelters.
The baseless story spread far and wide in the right-wing media ecosphere over the weekend and was amplified by high-profile Republicans. The Post confirmed to The Daily Beast that they had removed the stories and, after the publication of this story, both were put back online with editor’s notes.
Last week, the Post, which is owned by Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, published a report claiming Harris’ book Superheroes Are Everywhere was included in “welcome kits” distributed by federal officials to unaccompanied minors at a shelter in Long Beach, California. (“The original version of this article said migrant kids were getting Harris’ book in a welcome kit but has been updated to note that only one known copy of the book was given to a child,” read the editor’s note affixed to the article, which was republished online following this article’s publication.)
As The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, the since-removed New York Post article did not include any attribution to back its reporting. Instead, it appears the claim was solely based on a single photograph of one copy of Harris’ book propped up against a backpack. (That didn’t stop Fox News, however, from publishing a similar article the following day, attributing the claim to “photographs show.”)
In what the Washington Post described as a “bad game of telephone,” prominent Republicans then boosted the story on social media, and it eventually made its way into the White House press briefing room as Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked press secretary Jen Psaki about the claims, citing the since-deleted New York Post article. Psaki, for her part, said she was unaware of the story and would have to look into it.
The Washington Post additionally spoke with a Long Beach city spokesman who said there was merely a single copy of Superheroes Are Everywhere donated by a community member as part of a citywide book and toy drive for the migrant children. “The book you reference is one of hundreds of books that have already been donated. The book was not purchased by HHS or the City,” the spokesman noted.
Besides the original New York Post article being pulled offline—that piece had been featured on the print edition’s front page alongside the headline “Kam On In”—the publication also appeared to take down a second piece claiming Psaki had “no answers” on the book. (Following publication of this story, that second piece was returned to the Post website, initially without an editor’s note attached, but later one affixed to note “only one known copy of the book was donated to a child.”)
Elsewhere in the Murdoch media empire, and despite acknowledging that the story had already been debunked on Tuesday morning, the hosts of Fox & Friends continued pushing the bogus claim about the veep’s book.
Co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up the exchange between Psaki and Peter Doocy, noting that “there were rumors” about the book being given to kids. Fellow host Steve Doocy (Peter’s father) said it was “interesting” that this was something they were handing out at the facilities before airing a clip from the press briefing.
“Is there children’s version of Donald Trump’s books?” co-host Brian Kilmeade sarcastically asked. “Because he has written quite a few of them. Imagine if they appeared at the border in a bag of goodies as you arrive here illegally?”At this point, Earhardt pointed out that the Washington Post had fact-checked the story and said “it’s not accurate.” At the same time, she credited the younger Doocy for asking Psaki the “excellent” question because it was something Fox News had “heard.”
The elder Doocy just waved off the debunking, instead saying the real issue was whether or not the “government was paying for the book and whether or not she was making money on it.” He also said it sounded like a third party is “buying them” while wondering aloud whether that group would be spending money on the book.
“You know, why wouldn’t they spend the money to buy food or clothes or other hygiene elements? Why would they feel they needed to give them her book?” Doocy added.
—Maxwell Tani contributed reporting.