A New York Post journalist says she has resigned after she was "ordered to write" an inaccurate story alleging that officials are distributing Kamala Harris' book to unaccompanied migrant children at a Long Beach, CA facility. "Today I handed in my resignation to my editors at the New York Post," tweeted Laura Italiano, a former reporter and editor for the Post. "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."
Italiano closed her comment by praising New York's "liveliest, wittiest tabloid — a paper filled with reporters and editors I admire deeply and hold as friends." She did not further elaborate on who "ordered" her to write the article, and Refinery29 has reached out to the Post for comment.
The debunked report, published on 23rd April and unfortunately titled "KAM ON IN" in the tabloid's print edition, claimed that children at a new site in Long Beach would be given a copy of Harris' 2019 children's book, Superheroes are Everywhere, "in their welcome kits." Alongside the article is a photo of Harris' book placed on a cot next to toiletries and a backpack. But the piece has since been updated to clarify that "only one known copy of the book was given to a child."
Before this edit, however, the New York Post's story was picked up by several conservative outlets and shared by right-wing politicians including Sen. Tom Cotton. "Migrant children get to read Kamala Harris' kids' book. It's included in what can only be called a welcome pack given to unaccompanied minors at the border," Fox News host Tammy Bruce said. "Propaganda aimed even to children."
On Tuesday, The Washington Post fact-checked Italiano's article and noticed that she didn't cite any sources. "We repeatedly emailed the reporter, Laura Italiano, to ask how she arrived at that conclusion but received no response," the paper wrote. The Washington Post also looked into a similar Fox News story, which reported that "photographs show" the book appearing in "welcome packs." These "photographs," really, are just the one photo, which was distributed by Reuters.
And as it turns out, even that one book didn't come from a federal official. "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 told The Washington Post. "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." Other local outlets and libraries backed up Lee's explanation and told The Washington Post that the drive was well-publicized and many children's books were donated to the centre.
Like the New York Post story, the Fox News article remains online with an editor's note: "In a previous version of this story, it was implied there were multiple copies of Harris' book available for children in welcome packs." (It was not just "implied," though; the original story pretty specifically tells readers that the facility's welcome packs include the books.)
A White House official told Fox News that Harris had no knowledge of the donation, and another representative gave a similar statement. "A citywide donation for books and toys was organised by the community to donate to children being housed at migrant facilities," said spokeswoman Sabrina Singh. "The Office of the Vice President was not aware that her children's book was donated."