On Friday at what he called a “press conference” but did not involve taking any questions from the assembled press, Donald Trump did something that’s been building and building for five years. As part of a statement that lasted just 40 seconds, he finally admitted to the world that President Barack Obama was, in fact, born in the United States. After blaming Hillary Clinton for starting the entire “birther” controversy.
“Hillary Clinton in her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it,” Trump said. “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.” And that was the end of the entire press event, over as quickly as it started.
Of course, the historical record disputes Trump’s insistence that Clinton was behind the birther movement. It sounds great, but the truth is more complicated than that. On top of that, the statement that he “finished it” by being the loudest voice when Obama procured and released his original birth certificate from 1961 is also far from the truth. So let’s take a look at how this all got started, where Trump got involved, and how it was/should have been put to rest.
Spring 2008: The first “birther” email starts circulating: “Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth.” While it does appear to have originated with Clinton supporters, nobody has ever proven ties to Clinton herself or her campaign. The closest things to even resembling direct links would be this tweet from Thursday, where James Asher, the Washington Editor for Injustice Watch and former Washington Bureau Chief for The McClatchey Company, said this:
— James Asher (@jimasher) September 16, 2016
Clinton’s 2008 2008 campaign manager, tweeted on Friday that the one rogue staffer who helped spread the birther conspiracy (but didn’t necessarily start it) was immediately fired:
— Patti Solis Doyle (@PattiSolisDoyle) September 16, 2016
June 13, 2008: To combat the “birtherism” and other false allegations, the Obama campaign launches FightTheSmears.com. One page debunks the birther conspiracy with the “Certificate of Live Birth” computer printout version of his birth certificate, which is what they send if you request a new copy. Because, this is not the original from 1961, even though it’s his valid birth certificate for all legal purposes, this release seems to only stoke the fires of the conspiracy theorists. This continues even after Hawaiian government officials spoke of seeing and authenticating the original months later.
November 4, 2008: Barack Obama becomes the first black man elected President of the United States.
February 10, 2011: Donald Trump, publicly flirting with a bid for President, joins in the birther fray publicly with a deliberately vague comment at the Conservative Political Action Conference: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: the people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”
March-April 2011: Trump does the rounds on numerous talk shows, making the subtext of his CPAC speech the actual text. On “The View,” he speculates that “There’s something on that birth certificate that [Obama] doesn’t like.” On “The O’Reilly Factor” he adds that the specific “something” could be “it says he’s a Muslim.” On “Fox & Friends” he speculates that the birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers were planted “for whatever reason.” And he tells NBC that he sent investigators to Hawaii who have found unspecified leads that they “cannot believe.”
April 27, 2011: The White House procures and releases the original birth certificate from 1961 and Trump takes credit for the move before pivoting to demanding that Obama release his college records for some reason.
2011-2014: In spite of having theoretically “ended it,” Trump continues to tweet about President Obama’s birth certificate and/or college records regularly for years, mixing debunked conspiracy theories and his own brand of baseless speculation. He didn’t tone down the shtick (well, that specific shtick) until he was gearing up for his actual presidential campaign. Some of the “highlights” include:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2012
I want to see @BarackObama's college records to see how he listed his place of birth in the application.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2012
Why does HI Revised Statute 338-17.8 allow an HI resident who doesn't have to be US citizen to procure an official Hawaii birth certificate?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2012
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
Attention all hackers: You are hacking everything else so please hack Obama's college records (destroyed?) and check "place of birth"
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2014
Whatever you think of the other tweets, though, this one probably takes the cake:
How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2013
March 3, 2016: Garrett Jackson, Mitt Romney’s former personal aide, tweets this:
I recorded a lot @realDonaldTrump better hope I didn't record him telling us to use birther argument bc "rightwing crazies will believe it"
— Garrett Jackson (@dgjackson) March 4, 2016
September 16, 2016: Donald Trump admits that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.” At least for now.
We’re updating this during the day when we find anything interesting.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.