Monday, September 19, 2016

Trump Is Trying to Rewrite His History of Birtherism. This Is What Really Happened.

Donald Trump. (photo: Jeffrey Phelps/AP)
Donald Trump. (photo: Jeffrey Phelps/AP)

By Judd Legum, ThinkProgress
17 September 16

‘We have to keep the suspense going’
ince 2011, Donald Trump has been the most prominent spokesperson for birtherism — the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.

Trump’s embrace of birtherism is what propelled him to political prominence, making him a hero to the far-right seeking to drive their fringe views into the mainstream.

“[H]e could have been born in Kenya and gone over to the United States. Everybody wants to be a U.S. citizen, and his grandparents put an ad in saying he was born in the United States because of all the benefits you get from being born in the United States,” Trump told a national audience on CNN in April 2011.

But now, his campaign is desperately trying to backtrack — saying that, beginning in 2011, Trump came to believe that Obama was born in the United States.

But there’s a problem. Just hours earlier, Trump told the Washington Post to ignore comments from his campaign about his views on birtherism.

Trump told the reporter to disregard the fact that his campaign manager had previously said he believes Obama was born in the United States.

When asked whether his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was accurate when she said recently that he now believes Obama was born in this country, Trump responded: “It’s okay. She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”

Now, Trump is now expected to echo his campaign statement at a press conference on Friday at his new hotel in Washington, D.C. — appearing to believe that finally recognizing that Obama is a U.S. citizen will absolve him.

The media seems to be open to this. On Friday morning, George Stephanopoulos said Trump could “end it by simply saying, ‘Yes, the president was born in the United States, I was wrong.’”

Which brings us to the second problem with the statement: the idea that after Obama released his “long form” birth certificate in April 2011, Trump was convinced that he was born in the United States.

This is objectively false. For the last five years, Trump has perpetuated this racist conspiracy theory. He has openly questioned the validity of Obama’s birth certificate and gleefully perpetuated the myth that Obama was not born in the country, using it to his political advantage.

Trump also appears poised, as his campaign statement does, to pin the birther conspiracy theory on Hillary Clinton. This claim has also been definitively debunked.

A last-minute conversion does not erase this ugly history.

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