A single copy of Vice President Kamala Harris’ children’s book was one of many titles donated to a shelter for immigrant children in Long Beach, California. But a debunked New York Post article – which led to the reporter’s resignation — incorrectly claimed every child was given a copy of her book, starting a deluge of false claims in social media posts.
A copy of the book was one of many titles donated during a toy and book drive for migrant children arriving at a shelter operated by the Department of Health and Human Services in Long Beach, California.
During the drive, a story published by the New York Post on April 23 falsely claimed all the children at the shelter were given a copy of Harris’ book in “welcome kits.”
The New York Post story was debunked within days, leading to an updated version in the paper — and the resignation of the reporter who wrote the original story, tweeting that she was “ordered to write” the article.
But the inaccurate story sparked a litany of bogus claims in conservative social media posts.
A viral Instagram post shows a screenshot of a tweet posted by the account @Breaking911 that rehashes an exchange between a reporter and White House Press Secretary Jan Psaki on April 26. It says: “REPORTER: ‘Every migrant child being brought to a shelter is being given a copy of [VP Kamala Harris’] children’s book. Do you know why that is and if she’s making any money off of that?’ PSAKI: ‘I’d have to certainly check on that. I hear it’s a good book.’”
The account that posted the exchange commented, “I’d bet $100 to a bucket of piss that our taxpayer money is paying for these books. That’s CRIMINAL.”
Conservative commentator Candace Owens tweeted on April 26: “Imagine if President Donald Trump used taxpayer money to buy his own books to give out to foreigners. That is exactly what Kamala Harris is doing. Her and Biden are crooks, but we already knew that.”
Christina Aguayo News, a Facebook account with 63,000 followers, posted a video report on April 27, which has since been deleted, also falsely claiming Harris’ book was being given to children in welcome kits, showing the chyron, “Tax Payer Dollars Used to Purchase Harris’ Book.”
None of that was true, however.
Kevin Lee, the spokesman for the City of Long Beach, told Snopes in a story published April 27 that Harris’ book “is one of now thousands of various books that have already been donated. The book was not purchased by HHS or the City. It was a single book and was not part of a mass donation of that specific title.”
Lee told CNN that the donated books would be made available in an informal library at the shelter, not in the children’s welcome package. Lee said the Harris book had been donated by a member of the local community.
The HHS, in a statement to Newsweek published April 26, said, “The referenced book was one of an assortment of hundreds of titles donated to the Long Beach Emergency Intake Site as part of a City of Long Beach new books and toys drive. No taxpayer dollars were used to purchase Vice President Harris’ book.”
In addition, Sabrina Singh, a spokeswoman for Harris, told the Washington Post, “A citywide donation for books and toys was organized by the community to donate to children being housed at migrant facilities. The Office of the Vice President was not aware that her children’s book was donated.”
The reporter who wrote the New York Post story, Laura Italiano, announced her resignation from the newspaper in a tweet on April 27. She wrote: “The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point.”
A follow-up story published April 26 in the New York Post includes an editor’s note at the end, stating: “The original version of this article said migrant kids were getting Harris’ book in a welcome kit, but has been updated to note that only one known copy of the book was donated to a child.”
City of Long Beach, California. “Updated: Long Beach Launches Toy and Book Donation Drive for Arriving Migrant Children.” Press release. 23 Apr 2021.
Crisp, Elizabeth. “White House Distances Itself From Kamala Harris Book in Migrant Welcome Packs.” Newsweek. 26 Apr 2021.
Dale, Daniel. “New York Post temporarily deletes, then edits false story that claimed Harris’ book was given out in migrant ‘welcome kits’.” CNN. 28 Apr 2021.
Italiano, Laura. “Kamala isn’t at the southern border- but at least one migrant kid got Veep’s book.” New York Post. 23 Apr 2021.
Italiano, Laura (@Italiano_Laura). “The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point.” Twitter. 27 Apr 2021.
Mastrangelo, Dominick. “New York Post Deletes Story Alleging Kamala Harris Book Given to Migrant Children.” The Hill. 27 April 2021.
Moore, Mark. “Psaki Has No Answers When Asked About Harris’ Book Being Given to Child Migrants.” New York Post. 26 Apr 2021.
New York Times. Best Sellers: “Children’s Picture Books.” 17 Feb 2019.
Palma, Bethania. “Did Biden Admin Give Migrant Kids Kamala Harris’ Book?” Snopes. 27 Apr 2021.
Penguin. “Superheroes Are Everywhere” webpage. Penguin.co.uk. Accessed 30 Apr 2021.
Rizzo, Salvador. “No, officials are not handing out Harris’s picture book to migrant kids.” Washington Post. 27 Apr 2021.