Kamala Harris Disinformation: QAnon’s continuous spread of disinformation on Democratic political candidates of color

California Senator Kamala Harris has faced extensive backlash since being named Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s vice president running mate, mostly from the far-right on social media. QAnon, a popular conspiracy group from the far-right, has been the most notable source of
the vitriol, particularly in questioning Harris’s eligibility for the vice presidency. Similar to the backlash from Obama’s presidential race, QAnon has spread misinformation stating that Harris is not a legal American, therefore disqualifying her from the position.

Harris, who is of half-Jamaican and half-Indian descent, is a wholly legal American citizen. However, the suspicion that she is not has been spread across all different social media platforms – so much so, that the conspiracy has even made its way to President Trump.

“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the
requirements,” Trump said of Harris according to the New York Times. “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.”

Though disappointing, Trump’s stance on the issue should not come as a surprise as he was
also a main proponent of the conspiracy theory that Obama was Kenyan born. Further critique of Harris rises from her racial identity. Posts from those who oppose the Senator refer to her as “Kamala Dolezal.” This title questions Harris’s identity as a Black woman by referencing Rachel Dolezal, a former official
at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who was later revealed to be a
white woman.

The New York Times spoke to Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of digital ethics
at Syracuse University about the conspiracies against Harris.

“Regardless of political party, sexism and racism have long been fixtures in American public life,” Ms. Phillips said. The lies about Harris, though while politically charged, are based in the sexist and racist ideals that fuel both QAnon and the alt-right as a whole. Another conspiracy theory sprouted by QAnon
poses that Harris is involved with “PizzaGate,” a non-existant child sex trafficking ring supposed
to be run out of a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. This theory is based on the belief that Harris’s sister
was invited to a “pizza party” by Hilary Clinton’s former campaign manager in 2016.

Though these claims have been fact-checked and disproven, the rumor persists on every social media platform. According to the New York Times, the falsehood is believed to have spread to as many as 624,000 individuals.

These conspiracy theories are pointed attacks against Biden and Harris’s campaign, and ultimately serve to promote Trump’s re-election. Misinformation, suspicion, and conspiracy theories are used to manufacture distrust against the candidates, which could incite some voters either to vote for Trump instead, or simply not vote at all.

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