By Bonnie K. Goodman
Republican nominee Donald Trump a long time birther has finally acknowledged that President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Trump made the statement on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, at an event held at the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. The GOP nominee’s statement put an end to one conspiracy theory but was not without controversy. Trump took aim at his opponent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton blaming her for starting the rumor and movement during the 2008 primary campaign.
After nearly 20 minutes of promoting his new hotel and having veterans praise him, Trump appeared to give his brief statement. The GOP nominee declared, “Hillary Clinton in her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.” Trump chose not to apologize and not answer the reporters further irking them after they waited so long for his statement and broadcasting the event live.
After Trump’s comments to the Washington Post, Clinton criticized the GOP nominee at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute event in Washington. Clinton said, “He was asked one more time: Where was President Obama born? And he still wouldn’t say Hawaii. He still wouldn’t say America. This man wants to be our next president? When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry? This is the best he can do. This is who he is. And so we need to decide who we are.” Afterward, Clinton’s campaign tweeted, “President Obama’s successor cannot and will not be the man who led the racist birther movement. Period.”
President Obama took it all light-hearted, telling reporters on Friday, “I was pretty confident about where I was born.” First Lady Michelle Obama was more critical when speaking to the audience at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where she campaigned for Clinton. Michelle argued, “There were those who questioned and continued to question for the past eight years up through this very day whether my husband was even born in this country. Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the example he set by going high when they low.” The Congressional Black Caucus also would not accept that Trump’s was enough.
Recently Trump has moved away from discussing the president’s birthplace, declining to comment on the theory during interviews saying it took away from the major issues and his campaign focus. The GOP nominee’s campaign embraced that Obama was born in the US. Trump’s running mate vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, and top surrogate Rudy Giuliani have recently agreed Obama was born in the US. Still, Trump caused potential conflict for his campaign when asked about Obama’s birthplace by the Washington Post in an interview on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Trump responded, “I’ll answer that question at the right time. I just don’t want to answer it yet.”
Trump is blaming Clinton for starting the speculation back in during 2008 Democratic primary campaign. In March 2008 when “60 Minutes” asked Clinton if she thought Obama was a Muslim she replied, “No. No, there is nothing to base that on — as far as I know.” Towards the end of the primary when it became clear Obama would win the nomination, diehard Clinton supporters began attacking Obama and questioning his place of birth and religion.
In 2007, Clinton’s chief strategist, Mark Penn wanted to emphasize Obama’s “lack of American roots.” In the memo, Pen wrote of Obama, “His roots to American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and values.” Additionally, a Clinton staffer had circulated an email in the office about “promoting the birther conspiracy,” that staffer, however, was fired for their actions.
Trump first started his role in the conservative birtherism movement in April 2011, amid speculation that Trump might run for president in 2012. Trump attacked Obama saying he was not a natural born US citizen and not eligible to be president. Trump’s remarks forced Obama to release his long-form birth certificate quelling some of the birther talk, but not for Trump. Then Obama expressed when he released the document to the press, “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
Trump, however, was pleased he forced Obama to release the birth certificate, saying, “Today I’m very proud of myself because I’ve accomplished something that nobody else was able to accomplish.” A year later in August 2012, however, Trump was still questioning Obama’s birthplace tweeting, “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”