Donald Trump finally acknowledged Friday the fact that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, after years leading the charge on the so-called “birther” movement — the name given to those who propagated the falsehood that Obama was born outside of the country.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” the Republican White House nominee told a nationally televised press conference in Washington, DC.
As he did so, the Republican nominee repeated the conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for president started the “birther controversy.”
There is no evidence that is true, and Clinton and her allies have strongly denied that suggestion.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean?” Trump claimed.
The GOP nominee was, for many years, the most prominent proponent of the “birther” movement, which claimed that as Obama was born outside the US, he was ineligible to be president — despite the fact that he was born in Hawaii. Trump’s comments were seen by many as an attempt to delegitimize the nation’s first black president and have turned off many of the African-American voters he is now courting in his bid for the White House.
Shortly before Trump’s announcement, Obama said Friday that he believed most people know he was born in the United States, and he hoped the election to replace him would focus on “more serious issues.”
Responding to a reporter’s question about Trump’s recent refusal to say that the president was born in the United States, Obama said he was “pretty confident about where I was born, I think most people were, as well.”
He said he was “not that shocked” that the question would come up, but added: “We’ve got so many other things to do.”
Clinton said Friday that Trump owes Obama and the American people an apology for his role in the movement, telling the Black Women’s Agenda Annual Symposium in Washington, DC that Trump’s campaign was “founded on this outrageous lie” and “there is no erasing it.”
She accused Trump of feeding into the “worst impulses, the bigotry and bias” that lurks in the nation.
Trump’s campaign spokesman said Thursday night that the Republican candidate does now believe Obama was born in the United States, despite the candidate’s hitherto repeated refusal to say so himself.
Campaign spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement that Trump “did a great service to the country” by bringing closure to an “ugly incident” that Trump, in fact, fueled.
“In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate,” Miller said.
“Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure” to the issue, he added. “Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”
People should be proud of the fact that I got Obama to release his birth certificate, which in a recent book he “miraculously” found.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2013
The campaign statement came after an interview published by The Washington Post in which Trump again declined to say whether he believed Obama was born on US soil. “I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump told the paper. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”
While Miller’s statement suggested that Trump has believed the president was born in the US since seeing his birth certificate, the candidate has repeatedly stoked the issue in the years since.
In August 2012 — more than a year after the president released the document in April 2011 — Trump was pushing the issue on Twitter.
“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud,” he wrote.
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012
Trump said repeatedly during the current campaign that he no longer talks about the “birther” issue, but had refused to retract his previous comments, despite numerous opportunities. Instead, he described the issue as an inconvenience.
“I don’t talk about it because if I talk about that, your whole thing will be about that,” he told reporters in his plane last week. “So I don’t talk about it.”
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.