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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden stands left as his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP) Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden stands left as his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden stands left as his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP)

Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke August 19, 2020
Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman August 19, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • Since Biden announced Kamala Harris as his vice presidential pick on Aug. 11, PolitiFact has fact-checked many claims attacking Harris’ family roots and career as a politician and prosecutor, and even her music preferences. Some are distortions; others are outright fabrications. 

The internet responded to Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate with heaps of misinformation about her mixed-race heritage and personal biography.

Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be nominated on a major party’s presidential ticket. Since Aug. 11, the day Biden announced Harris as his vice presidential pick, PolitiFact has fact-checked nearly a dozen claims attacking Harris’ family roots and career as a politician and prosecutor. 

Here’s a guide to the misinformation against Harris so far.

Attacks on her eligibility, racial identity and family

Harris was born Oct. 20, 1964, in Oakland, Calif. She is a natural-born U.S. citizen who is eligible to serve as president.

Because her parents are immigrants, some social media posts and commentators falsely cast doubt on her eligibility to be president. Her father, Donald J. Harris, was born in Jamaica, and her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was born in Chennai, India.

But Harris could serve. The Constitution requires the president to be a citizen or natural born-citizen, and the 14th Amendment says people born in the U.S. are citizens.

When it comes to racial identity, Harris has said that she simply views herself as "an American." Harris credits her Hindu immigrant single mother for immersing Harris and her sister Maya in Black culture. Harris said that she grew up embracing Indian culture while living a proud African American life.

Still, some people have questioned whether Harris can be considered African American, when her father is Jamaican. But the implication that Jamaicans aren’t connected to Africa is wrong. The vast majority of Jamaicans hail from sub-Saharan Africa, according to both census data and genetic studies.

Other posts have shared claims that Harris is the descendant of a slave owner. In 2018, Donald J. Harris, Kamala Harris’ father, said in an essay that he is the descendant of Hamilton Brown, an Irish man who enslaved people in Jamaica. Records and genealogy archives suggest Harris’ great-great-great-grandfather was a slaveholder, but there’s also evidence she is descended from people who were enslaved.

Photos shared on various social media websites have questioned her family roots and her race.

One photo of Harris posing with her "parents" actually shows her at a gala in California with donors who are unrelated to her. ​

Another post shares an image of a document as proof that Harris’ parents listed her as "Caucasian" on her birth certificate. We don’t know if the image of the birth certificate is authentic, but the document doesn’t list any race for Harris, and it doesn’t describe her as Caucasian.


Kamala Harris is eligible to be president

Kamala Harris and racial identity in the United States

Looking at claims Kamala Harris is the descendant of a slave owner

This photo doesn’t show Kamala Harris listed as Caucasian on her birth certificate

Kamala Harris’s sister does take hydroxychloroquine — for lupus

Distortions from the first Democratic debate

Before they shared the party ticket, Harris and Biden shared the debate stage as candidates. Flash forward to August 2020: Social media posts and Trump campaign officials said they could not believe Biden chose someone who called him "a racist." 

But that’s a false portrayal of what happened. In their first debate in June 2019, Harris pointedly attacked Biden for working with segregationist senators to oppose school busing. But Harris prefaced her debate callout by telling Biden, "I do not believe you are a racist."

"There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day," Harris said June 27, 2019. "And that little girl was me."

She didn’t call Biden "trash," either, despite another fake quote on Facebook.

Other social media posts questioned whether Harris was telling the truth about being bussed due to segregation, given her birth year. "Kamala Harris claimed to be bused in the 60’s due to segregation type issues," one post said. "She was born in 1964, thus 6 years old in 1970. Wth?"

Harris was 3 when the school board in Berkeley voted to desegregate the district’s elementary schools. Desegregation was still going on when she entered the public school system. A Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson told PolitiFact California that Harris would have been part of the second class to integrate. And she was in 1970, when she was bused across town in the first grade.


Harris did not call Biden a racist during her busing attack

A young Kamala Harris was among Berkeley students bused to desegregate elementary schools

Kamala Harris didn’t call Joe Biden "trash"

Events that never happened

Then there are the outright fabrications that say Harris did things that never happened.

According to Facebook posts, Harris refused to be sworn into office as a U.S. senator with her hand on a copy of the Bible. That’s wrong. Harris used a Bible for the re-enactment of being sworn into office in January 2017. (Photography is banned from the Senate chamber for the actual ceremony, but senators re-enact the official ceremony after it ends.)

Growing up, Harris attended services at a Black Baptist church and a Hindu temple, according to the Associated Press. As an adult, she said she identifies as a Baptist "and brought another faith into her life in 2014," when she married Jewish attorney Douglas Emhoff, the AP reported.

Following the death of George Floyd and worldwide Black Lives Matter protests over police brutality, some said Harris was the prosecutor "who refused" to charge a police officer in the deadly shooting of Oscar Grant, an unarmed Black man who was killed on an Oakland train platform in 2009. (The movie "Fruitvale Station" is about this case.)

But Harris didn’t work at the Alameda County district attorney’s office when Grant was shot in the back by Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle. Tom Orloff, who was the district attorney at the time, charged Mehserle with murder two weeks after the shooting.

Harris’ policy views are another area of distortion online. Harris supports restrictions on firearms, but her stance falls well short of a Facebook user’s description. The post falsely quoted Harris as saying she would sign an executive order directing police to "show up at your door" and collect any guns that were not surrendered. This is neither Harris’ quote nor her position.


Kamala Harris used a Bible in ceremonial swearing-in 

No, Kamala Harris wasn’t the prosecutor in the ‘Fruitvale Station’ case

No, Kamala Harris didn’t say this about guns

But does she like Tupac and Snoop Dog?

Finally, her pop culture cred has been questioned. In 2019, Harris said she smoked marijuana in college during an interview on the radio show "The Breakfast Club." Her comments spawned Facebook posts that claim Harris said she did so while listening to rappers Tupac and Snoop Dogg. But those rappers were popular after Harris’ college years. 

"She graduated in 1986," one post said. "Snoop’s first album — 1993. Tupac’s first album — 1991."

But if you watch the interview, it really isn’t that clear.

A Harris spokesperson and one of the show's hosts told PolitiFact that she was actually answering a question about her musical tastes, not what she listened to during her college years.

It’s true that Harris graduated from Howard University in 1986, and that Snoop Dogg debuted his first album in 1993, and Tupac in 1991.

One of the show’s hosts, DJ Envy, said on MSNBC that the confusion over her comments stemmed from her being asked two different questions at the same time — about her music tastes and marijuana.

"I asked what she listens to, and she said she listens to Snoop Dogg and Tupac," DJ Envy said. "At the same time, my co-host was talking about marijuana. … But she was actually answering me and people took it as she was answering Charlamagne, and said she was lying, which is not true."

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