Harris book

A sleeping area set up inside exhibit hall B of the Long Beach Convention Center, Thursday, April 22, showed Vice President Kamala Harris's book as part of a display.

A 2019 children’s book by Vice President Kamala Harris, a copy of which was among thousands of other books donated to a temporary shelter for migrant children in Long Beach, has recently drawn the ire of conservative pundits, publications and officials after multiple news articles inaccurately described its prevalence at the immigration facility.

Long Beach struck a deal with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to open a temporary shelter last week at the city’s Convention Center. The facility will hold up to 1,000 children, mostly siblings, who arrived at the southern border without parents or guardians.

The Convention Center is one of several temporary facilities operating in the U.S., mostly in Texas — though there are several in California — as federal officials deal with a surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border as they flee violence and poverty in Central America.

While HHS is operating the Long Beach facility, which will stay open until Aug. 2, the city has undertaken multiple efforts to ensure the children staying there have everything they need.

That includes accepting donations for books.

But it was Harris’ book, “Superheroes Are Everywhere,” that recently caught the attention of the New York Post and Fox News, both owned by the Rupert Murdoch family.

That book, illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe, was published when Harris was still a United States senator from California.

During a tour of the Long Beach shelter on Thursday, April 22, Brittany Murray, a Southern California News Group photographer, took a picture that showed Harris’s book.

The book was the centerpiece in a display set up atop a cot meant to show what would be available to the children. The photograph also showed a backpack and a blanket, and, under the cot, two pairs of shoes.

In an article the next day, the New York Post wrote that Harris’s book was part of welcome kits the children were receiving.

The SCNG photo was also the cover image for the Post’s Saturday, April 24, edition, with the headline “Kam on in.” A subhead read, “Solo kids at border welcomed with copy of veep’s book.”

On Sunday, Fox News’ website picked up on the story, also writing that there were multiple copies and that they were part of welcome kits.

The premise of those articles, however, was false:

There was only one copy. There were no welcome kits.

In fact, “Superheroes Are Everywhere” was one of more than 3,000 other unused books donated by community members so far, Long Beach spokesman Kevin Lee said Tuesday, April 27. And more are coming in via an ongoing book drive.

The books do get screened for inappropriate content, though how that process works wasn’t immediately clear.

But those books are for the children’s enjoyment, much like the television screens set up at the Convention Center for movies and video games, as well as soccer nets.

They are separate from reading materials the children may receive as part of the several hours of learning HHS will require of the children while they stay there, Lee said.

The education program is still being “ramped up,” Zhan Caplan, the on-site HHS spokesman for the Long Beach shelter, said in an email Tuesday.

But the various learning areas include literacy, writing, English as a second language, arts and crafts, physical education, and breathing and relaxation techniques, Caplan said.

“The education contractors will perform a mini-assessment,” Caplan said, “to determine children’s literacy level and determine appropriate learning opportunities.”

The books that get donated, meanwhile, will not be part of welcome kits. The children, in fact, do not receive welcome kits, Lee said.

Instead, the facility has a library set up for the children to browse and select what they want to read. The books are organized by reading level, Lee said.

The shelter also has an area set up for the children to select clothes.

“Giving these kids personal choices is so important,” Lee said. “They are allowed to pull out any book they find interesting.”

It’s unclear why the errors in the Post and Fox News stories occurred. Both have fixed their stories and run corrections.

Representatives for News Corps, which owns the New York Post, did not return a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Fox News responded to a request for comment by saying via email that the story had been corrected.

The author of the original Post story, Laura Italiano, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that she had resigned from the paper.

“The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against,” she wrote, “was my breaking point.”

The Post did not respond to a follow-up request for comment on Italiano’s allegation that she was forced to write the story.

The Fox News story doesn’t have attribution in its descriptions of the Long Beach shelter or the items available to children there.

But the Post story cites the SCNG photo.

That photo, however, was taken during a tour of the facility before the children arrived to show elected officials and the media what would be available to the minors. Several of the cots were arranged to display some of the items, much like a pre-arranged photo opportunity.

“It was set up as examples,” Lee said, “of what would be available at the shelter.”

Despite that, high-profile Republicans and conservative media personalities seized on the misleading articles.

Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, both tweeted about the book, suggesting taxpayers have been paying to buy copies and benefit Harris.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about it during her daily briefing.

Fox News pundits on Monday discussed “Superheroes Are Everywhere,” within the context of the vice president having not yet visited the southern border.

Tucker Carlson, for example, mentioned it on his primetime opinion show, along with a reference to North Korea, seemingly insinuating that the Biden administration is attempting education campaigns similar to the Asian autocratic regime.

He also said his show reached out to HHS, paraphrasing the agency’s response.

“They told us they had not,” Carlson said. “Instead, they claimed the book had been donated to a migrant detention facility as part of a book drive. Huh. They weren’t more specific about this. How many more copies exactly?”

While it isn’t known if anyone else has donated Harris’s book, there is no evidence that the migrant shelter has a collection.

“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,” Caplan said. “No taxpayer dollars were used to purchase Vice President Harris’s book.”

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