The apparently bot-aided onslaught is claiming the senator doesn’t represent U.S. blacks because her father was born in Jamaica. Harris, an American of both Jamaican and Indian descent, was born in Oakland, California.
Donald Trump Jr. retweeted the original attack but later deleted it. Meanwhile, the president’s former campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson tried to discredit Harris another way, indicating she is not African enough to run as a minority presidential candidate. She tweeted that “while Obama is actually African-American — Harris is not,” even though people of African descent have lived in Jamaica for centuries.
The slam appeared Thursday night shortly after the Democratic presidential debate, where Harris had powerfully raised her own experiences being bused as a child in California to battle school desegregation
The attack appeared to be launched by a self-described “black activist” identifying himself as “Ali Alexander” on an unverified Twitter account. He claimed in a video and tweet that Harris cannot represent the black experience in America because she has “no ancestors who suffered American Slavery, the Civil War, nor Jim Crow.”
Alexander is actually a far-right political operative and conspiracy theorist Ali Akbar, or Ali Abdul Razaq Akbar, whom Politico profiled last year as an “increasingly prominent pro-Trump supporter.” On the eve of the 2016 election, Robert Mercer donated $60,000 to a PAC that Alexander advises, Politico reported.
Akbar, posing as Alexander, boasted that his tweets “went viral.” In fact, his message was nearly instantaneously picked up word for word and disseminated by several Twitter accounts that have been identified as bots, BuzzFeed reported.
Social media researcher Caroline Orr pointed out that the original tweet also drew in other attacks falsely claiming Harris wasn’t born in the U.S.
These claims about Harris echo the right-wing lie against Obama — pitched repeatedly by Trump — that the first black U.S. president was born in Africa and had no legal right to be an American president. Similarly, Alexander is saying Harris has no right to represent black people in the U.S. because her father was foreign-born.
Harris has experienced similar attacks questioning her race, her racial experiences and her citizenship. In an interview early this year, Harris said: “This is the same thing they did to Barack, this is not new to us.” She added that “powerful voices” are “trying to sow hate and division among us. We need to recognize when we’re being played.”
Harris aide Lily Adams ripped Donald Trump Jr.’s retweet of Alexander’s attack to The New York Times on Friday. “This is the same type of racist attack his father used to attack Barack Obama,” she said. “It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”
Many Twitter users defended Harris and raised suspicions that this latest attack is a taste of coming election manipulation aided again by Russians and bots.
Here’s Harris’ response earlier this year to accusations that she’s not “black enough.”