Mere days after rightwing pundits and Republican elected officials spread the easily debunked lie that Joe Biden was going to ban their precious beef and underseasoned burgers, they’ve moved on to a new bit of misinformation in an effort to stir up some indignation among their base. This time, the lie is that the Biden administration is handing out free copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’s book to migrant kids held in detention centers and shelters. Do I need to repeat again that this is not happening for your uncle in the back who swears it’s true because he saw it on Facebook?
This new, false claim originated in the New York Post in an article published on April 23, one that stated with absolutely no evidence that “[u]naccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach, Calif., will be given a copy of her 2019 children’s book, ‘Superheroes are Everywhere,’ in their welcome kits.” The only “proof” in the article, other than its own assertion, appears to be a single Reuters photo in which a copy of the book appears on a cot, an image that the Washington Post reported was snapped at the Long Beach facility.
The real origin story of that single book? It was donated by a resident of Long Beach as part of a book and toy drive meant to support migrant kids. Via the Washington Post:
A spokesman for the city of Long Beach told The Fact Checker that a single copy of “Superheroes Are Everywhere” was donated by a member of the community.
“The City of Long Beach, in partnership with the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, has a citywide book and toy drive that is ongoing to support the migrant children who are temporarily staying in Long Beach at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shelter,” city spokesman Kevin Lee said. “The book you reference is one of hundreds of books that have already been donated. The book was not purchased by HHS or the City.”
But the truth didn’t stop some of the worst people in the Republican Party from running with the lie, which fits neatly with their cynical attempts to smear Harris as an overly ambitious politician who’s in it just for her own gain. “Was Harris paid for these books? Is she profiting from Biden’s border crisis?” Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel asked on Twitter. Senator Tom Cotton weighed in, as did Representatives Steve Scalise, Lauren Boebert, and Jim Jordan.
While it’s easy to laugh at the silliness of this effort, how quickly and widely misinformation like this spreads just highlights a more worrying reality—that there’s a whole media ecosystem primed to spread lies to a huge audience cultivated over years that’s all too ready and eager to believe them. And rather than hurting the credibility of elected officials when they push out this sort of misinformation, it merely boosts it with their voters.