US Election 2020: Kamala Harris targeted by false conspiracy theories

US Election 2020: Kamala Harris targeted by false conspiracy theories

Kamala HarrisImage copyright

Conspiracy theories and false claims about Kamala Harris have spread online since she was appointed as the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential nominee by its presidential candidate, Joe Biden.

We’ve looked at some of the most widely-shared examples.

1. False eligibility claims

Echoing unfounded claims he made about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, known as “birther” theories, President Donald Trump has referenced the conspiracy theory that Ms Harris is ineligible to serve as vice-president.

However, Ms Harris was born in the United States, to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, in Oakland, California. Anyone born in the US is a US citizen and therefore, she is eligible to serve as president or vice-president.

In the past seven days there was a surge in the number of people around the world searching for “Kamala Harris birther” and other terms regarding her birthplace, according to Google Trends.

These claims about the former California attorney-general have been on the internet since 2017, according to liberal media monitoring body Media Matters for America.

They have also been pushed on social media by supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose followers believe the baseless claim that Mr Trump is secretly investigating paedophiles within the government, business and media elites.

2. Misleading heritage claims

Further claims about Ms Harris’s heritage have emerged on right-leaning social media accounts.

Among them is an accusation that until accepting the vice-presidential nomination, she had not identified as a black American woman.

This is inaccurate because Ms Harris has been explicit about her dual heritage.

She wrote in her autobiography: “My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters.

“She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya [her sister] and me as black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.”

According to the Washington Post: “Harris grew up embracing her Indian culture, but living a proudly African-American life.”

An image shared thousands of times across Facebook and Twitter has screen grabs of two Associated Press (AP) news agency headlines, one from 2016, when Ms Harris became the first US senator of Indian heritage, and a recent headline after she was named as America’s first black female presidential running mate.

It suggests the media only started to describe Ms Harris as a black woman after she was appointed Joe Biden’s running mate – or that Ms Harris had only identified herself by her Indian roots until now.

As we’ve shown already, this is not correct.

And AP’s coverage of Ms Harris’s entry into the Senate in 2016 referred to her both as Indian American and a black woman.

3.’Pizzagate’ conspiracy targets Harris

Next, a revival of the false “pizzagate” conspiracy theory that has been linked to Ms Harris.

Just to recap, during the 2016 presidential election thousands of people were convinced – with no evidence – that a paedophile ring organised by Hillary Clinton and senior members of the Democratic Party was being run from the basement of a pizza restaurant in Washington DC.

This time, it resurfaced after emails were shared on social media indicating that Maya Harris, Kamala’s sister, had apparently been invited to a pizza party in honour of Mrs Clinton.

Facebook and Twitter accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy spread these rumours, and, a New York Times analysis found what they described as a falsehood had reached more than 600,000 people on Facebook the day after Kamala Harris was nominated.

There is not a shred of evidence to support the bogus conspiracy theory, but people on the far right continue to associate public figures with it.

4. Claims linking George Soros to Harris

Finally, the decision to appoint Ms Harris has also attracted baseless theories concerning George Soros, the Hungarian billionaire philanthropist.

A meme shared thousands of times on Facebook suggests that he gave the order to nominate Ms Harris, with an old photo of Mr Biden with President Obama.

Mr Soros is a major donor to the Democratic Party, but the notion that he would have the authority to decide the vice-presidential candidate is without evidence.

His son posted a message on Twitter congratulating Ms Harris, which has been shared by right-wing accounts, but that in no way indicates that Mr Soros had anything to do with the selection of Ms Harris.

Claims that Mr Soros is secretly controlling global events recall longstanding anti-Semitic tropes that are made against him by the far right, and he has been vilified in countries across the world for years.

Additional reporting by Olga Robinson.

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