Published with permission from Media Matters for America.
The Trump campaign released a lie-filled statement that sought to put to rest criticism of Donald Trump for building his political image on racist, conspiratorial claims that President Obama was not born in the United States. The media has a responsibility to debunk Trump’s lies and not let him get away with whitewashing his role in promoting a campaign to delegitimize the first black president.
Trump’s birtherism wasn’t just a fleeting comment; it helped lay the groundwork for his current presidential run. His sustained campaign in the spring of 2011 questioning the president’s birthplace endeared him to both fringe conservative media outlets that are now supporting his presidential bid and to Fox News, which devoted dozens of segments to helping him push the conspiracy.
Last night’s statement from the campaign claimed that Trump “was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion” in 2011 by “compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate.” The statement further asserted, “Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.” He also blamed “Hillary Clinton’s campaign” for first “rais[ing] this issue.”
None of this is true, but some reporters are already letting Trump off the hook.
The only way Trump will be able to put his shameful birtherism ‘to bed’ is if the media fails to hold him accountable in the coming days. Here’s why.
President Obama released his birth certificate in 2008, years before Trump started talking about it.
The campaign statement suggests Trump is the hero of the birth certificate story because he “was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion” in 2011 by “compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate.” In fact, Obama’s campaign released his certificate of live birth in June 2008. It was published by FactCheck.org and other media outlets and verified as authentic. The next year, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, certified that she had personally seen Obama’s birth certificate in the original records maintained by the Hawaii government.
In other words, at the time Trump raised the birther issue in 2011, the president’s place of birth was questionedonly by conspiracy theorists. It was Trump who brought that racist conspiracy out of the shadows, leading to President Obama releasing his long-form birth certificate in 2011.
When President Obama released his long-form, Trump suggested it was fake.
The Trump campaign statement suggests that the Republican nominee’s skepticism about Obama’s birthplace ended when he released his long-form birth certificate in 2011. But immediately after the release of that document, Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “a lot of people don’t agree with that birth certificate” because they “do not think it was an authentic certificate.” He added, “You won’t report it, Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic.”
Trump told Jerome Corsi, a leader of the birther movement and the author of Where’s the Birth Certificate, that the birth certificate was forged.
According to birther site WND, “During their conversation, Trump told Corsi his own computer expert told him at the release that it was a computer-generated document.”
Trump spent the next several years promoting birth certificate conspiracies on Twitter.
Trump repeatedly used his Twitter account in the years following the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate to cast doubt upon its authenticity. In 2012, Trump claimed that “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” In 2013, he wrote, “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.” In 2014, he retweeted someone who wrote that “Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one” by Trump. There are many, many more examples.
Via The Daily Beast’s Gideon Resnick:
Yup definitely resolved in 2011 pic.twitter.com/kXy8g5rLBs
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) September 16, 2016
Trump also continued to claim the birth certificate was fake in interviews.
For years, Trump would respond to interviewers who asked about his birtherism by claiming there were still legitimate questions about the document. In October 2012, he told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that he “wasn’t satisfied” with the long-form birth certificate, adding “I never said I was satisfied.” He also suggested that contemporaneous birth announcements that appeared in Hawaii newspapers had been faked.
In 2013, Trump told ABC’s Jon Karl, “I have no idea” if the president was born in the United States. He added, “Was it a birth certificate? You tell me. Some people say that was not his birth certificate. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows. And you don’t know either, Jonathan.”
In 2014, Trump questioned the birth certificate’s authenticity in an interview with Irish TV, as BuzzFeed reported:
In one 2014 exchange with Irish TV, for instance, he defended his birtherism at length.
“You questioned his citizenship during his campaign, and you said afterwards if he produced that long-form birth certificate, you’d produce your tax returns. But you didn’t do it, did you?” asked Ireland TV3’s Colette Fitzpatrick in May 2014.
“Well, I don’t know — did he do it?” Trump said. “If I decide to run for office I’ll produce my tax returns. Absolutely. I would love to do that. I did produce a financial statement even though I wasn’t even running. I did produce a financial statement and it was shocking to some because it was so much higher than people thought possible.”[…]
“But he is a citizen and he produced that long form birth certificate,” host Fitzpatrick said.
“Well, a lot of people don’t agree with you and a lot of people feel it wasn’t a proper certificate,” Trump said.
Earlier this year, Trump claimed he was planning to write a book about his theory of Obama’s citizenship.
Trump was casting doubt on the president’s birth certificate as recently as January.
Asked about whether Obama is a natural-born citizen during a January 6 interview with CNN’s Blitzer, Trump responded, “Who knows? Who cares right now? We’re talking about something else, OK?” He continued: “I mean, I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I’ll write a book. I’ll do another book. It’ll do very successfully.”
Trump’s campaign surrogates have defended his birtherism.
Before the Trump campaign released its September 15 statement, his campaign surrogates have defended him in a variety of ways. They have claimed that the issue is “completely irrelevant” so Trump “has said that he does not talk about that anymore”; doubled-down on birther claims; said that there was “nothing wrong” with his birther claims; and refused to say if Trump should apologize for his statements.
Trump is lying, Clinton’s campaign didn’t raise the birther issue.
According to the statement, “Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama” during her 2008 campaign for president. As FactCheck.org, Politifact.com, and The Washington Post, among others, have documented, this is false. Trump began pushing this lie last year in order to try to shed responsibility for his actions.