The Donald Trump campaign fanned out across the television airwaves on Sunday morning, insisting the “birther” issue was put to rest long before the Republican nominee publicly admitted President Obama was born in the United States.
“It wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “And when the issue was raised, he made very clear the other day what his position is.”
Christie said Trump had accepted that Obama was an American citizen in 2011 when the president released his long-form birth certificate — despite the fact that Trump fueled the conspiracy theory in interviews and on Twitter for at least five more years.
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
“It’s just not true that he kept it up for five years,” Christie said.
“Sure it is,” CNN’s Jake Tapper replied.
In a January interview with Tapper’s colleague Wolf Blitzer, Trump said he’d reveal his “theory” on Obama’s birthplace in a book.
“Who knows about Obama? … Who knows, who knows? Who cares right now?” Trump said. “I have my own theory on Obama. Someday, I will write a book. I will do another book, and it will do very successfully.”
On Friday, Trump offered no apology for his part in leading the “birther” movement. Instead, he wrongly took credit for ending the issue — something Obama himself did when he released his birth certificate — while falsely blaming Hillary Clinton of first raising questions about Obama’s birthplace in 2008.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the ‘birther’ controversy,” Trump said without taking questions from reporters. “I finished it.”
“This started with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, No. 1,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “No. 2, it was Donald Trump who put the issue to rest when he got President Obama to release his birth certificate years later.”
Christie said “birtherism” was “an issue that Mrs. Clinton also injected into her campaign in 2008 in a very quiet but direct way.”
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the “birther” movement can be traced “all the way back to Hillary Clinton’s campaign … the facts speak for themselves.” When pressed, Pence declined to elaborate.
Conway said that in 2007 and 2008 “while the Clintons were pushing this theory,” Trump was a “successful businessman” who “was building things.”
But there is no evidence the Clintons played any role in pushing “birtherism.”
Patti Solis Doyle, who worked for the Clinton campaign in 2008, told CNN on Friday that a volunteer in Iowa who had forwarded a memo during the Democratic primary suggesting Obama was secretly a Muslim was quickly fired.
Team Trump also tried to blame the media for reviving the birther issue.
“This is not what the American people are talking about,” Pence said, calling it a “sidebar debate” Trump is no longer interested in having.
“He hasn’t been talking about it,” Pence said.
“Why did it take him so long to put it to an end?” ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked.
“It’s over,” Pence replied.
“It’s not over,” Raddatz said.
It’s certainly not over for the Clinton campaign, which is hoping voters — particularly African-Americans — don’t forget Trump’s role in perpetuating the conspiracy.
“For five years, he has led the ‘birther’ movement to delegitimize our first black president,” Clinton said on Friday before Trump’s admission. “His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie.”
She added, “There is no erasing it in history.”