Hillary Clinton sharply criticized Donald Trump for pushing a “racist birther lie” about President Obama during a heated exchange at Monday night’s presidential debate at Hofstra University.
Moderator Lester Holt asked Trump to explain his yearslong campaign supporting the conspiracy theory questioning Obama’s citizenship and birthplace.
“I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate, and I think I did a good job,” Trump said.
“We’re talking about racial healing in this segment,” Holt interjected. “What do you say to Americans, people of color, who…”
Trump cut him off. “I say nothing,” he said, again congratulating himself for getting Obama to release his long-form birth certificate from Hawaii in 2011. Trump continued to push the issue for years after.
Clinton quickly pushed back at the debate, noting that Trump walked off the conspiracy in the days leading up to the debate. “He tried to put this whole racist birther lie to bed,” she said. “But it can’t be dismissed that easily. He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen.”
She said Obama was upset by the rumors. “Barack Obama is a man of great dignity, and I could tell how much it bothered him and annoyed him that this was being touted and used against him,” she said.
Trump accused Clinton’s campaign of starting the birther conspiracy theory during the 2008 primaries, and of circulating a photo of Obama in traditional garb. (Clinton did not start the birther conspiracy, but her campaign was accused in 2008 of circulating the traditional garb photo.) “When you try to act holier-than-thou, it really doesn’t work,” he said.