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PolitiFact California: A Look At Kamala Harris’ Record On PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images via NPR

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris made it official this week: She’s running for president in 2020. That caused many who aren’t familiar with the former prosecutor, and daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, to search for information on the senator’s background and positions on key issues.

Harris, a California Democrat and former state attorney general, is no stranger to PolitiFact and PolitiFact California. Together, we’ve fact-checked her more than a dozen times, placed Truth-O-Meter ratings on 10 of her past statements and published a profile of her this week. 

We’ve also investigated claims made about her, including one in July on the official White House Twitter account and more recently one by Jacob Wohl, described by media outlets as a "far-right conspiracy theorist."

As of late January, Harris had earned one False rating, two Half True ratings, five Mostly True scores and two True ratings.

Below is a look at some of the prominent fact checks and articles we’ve produced on or about Harris:

Recent Pants On Fire claim

PolitiFact National on Tuesday rated Pants On Fire a baseless claim by Wohl saying Harris was not eligible to run for president, after the charge gained attention on Twitter. Wohl said because Harris "was raised in Canada," and her parents had not been legal residents prior to Harris’ birth, she couldn’t legally run. In reality, Harris was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lived until she moved to Montreal at age 12 after her mother took a research position at a hospital there.  

Constitutional scholars knocked down the claim, telling PolitiFact the only factor that matters is that Harris was born in the United States, in Oakland, Calif.  The 14th Amendment, an 1898 Supreme Court decision and a 1952 statute make clear that anyone born in the United States is qualified to run for president.

"This type of stuff was garbage in 2008 and it’s garbage now," Harris’ communications director, Lily Adams, wrote on Twitter in response to Wohl’s claim.

Conspiracy theories in 2008, stoked by then citizen-Donald Trump, falsely alleged Barack Obama was born in Kenya and not eligible to run for president. Trump’s claims carried on well into his own presidential campaign, until he withdrew it in 2016.

Harris’ False claim about Brett Kavanaugh

Last September, PolitiFact gave Harris a False rating for a claim she made about Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s reference to popular contraceptive methods as "abortion-inducing," during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Harris tweeted a clip in which Kavanaugh said, "Filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were -- as a religious matter, objected to."

In Harris’ tweet, Kavanaugh appears to define contraception as abortion-inducing. But the video failed to include a crucial qualifier: "They said." In fact, PolitiFact found, he was citing the definition of the religious group Priests for Life. He has not expressed his personal view.

Pants on Fire for White House claim Harris ‘supporting MS-13’

President Trump received our most severe rating last July when the official White House Twitter account claimed Harris was "supporting the animals of MS-13." Harris and other Democrats have sharply criticized the Trump administration for its immigration policies. They have expressed concern about how those entering the country, legally and illegally, are treated and called for reforming or replacing ICE. That’s not the same thing as or even close to "supporting" a violent criminal gang. PolitiFact California gave this claim a Pants On Fire.

Harris’ cherry-picked claim on cost of Trump’s wall

Back in August 2017, Harris claimed Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border could cost "$70 billion." We didn’t place a rating on the claim because the project’s estimated cost has varied widely and remains unknown. But we found Harris selected the highest price tag, based on a report that projects the wall could be hundreds of miles longer than others see as necessary. Other estimates, including from Trump’s Homeland Security Department, have placed the total at closer to $20 billion while a research firm projected the price at between $15 billion and $25 billion. Harris’ statement would have benefitted from a more complete view of the facts.

Harris’s True claim it costs $75K per year to lock up an inmate in California

Also in August 2017, Harris correctly claimed "it costs us about $33,000 a year (nationally) to lock somebody up. In California it costs about $75,000 a year."

We gave this statement a True rating after inspecting data from California’s departments of corrections and finance that support her claim.  

Digging deeper, we found reducing inmates in California’s prisons, which Harris supports, may actually increase the per capita costs she highlights, especially as prison employee labor costs continue to rise.

Harris’ Half True claim on Mitt Romney

PolitiFact first fact-checked Harris in her September 2012 speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. It rated Half True her statement that Mitt Romney, who at the time was the Republican presidential nominee, said he favored letting housing foreclosures "hit the bottom" so the market could run its course. PolitiFact found Harris had omitted some key context.

PolitiFact California will continue to fact-check Harris’ statements, as well as claims aimed at her, during her run for president. Suggest a fact-check at politifactca@capradio.org or Twitter or Facebook.