Donald Trump, in a seconds-long statement before a horde of media, said that President Barack Obama “was born in the United States. Period.”
The statement was meant to address Trump’s 2011 effort to get Obama to produce his birth certificate, which he eventually did, as conspiracy theories swirled that the president was not born in Hawaii and therefore illegitimate. As he weighed whether to run for president in 2012, Trump capitalized on media publicity as he pushed the birther theory.
At an appearance at his new hotel in Washington DC, Trump made the short statement and then left. “Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again,” he said.
But he also tried to shift the blame on Hillary Clinton, falsely claiming that it was her campaign that first raised the birther issue in 2008, when she was running against Obama. Some of her supporters raised questions, but there is no evidence that the candidate or the campaign itself pushed the conspiracy.
“Hillary Clinton and the campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it,” Trump said at the appearance, where he was surrounded by military veterans.
In fact, even after the White House produced Obama’s birth certificate, Trump continued to question Obama’s origins in Twitter posts.
Cable news networks had built up coverage of the event, giving his campaign exposure and even that to his new hotel.
“We got played, again, by the Trump campaign,” said CNN’s John King. The network had covered some of the speeches from veterans at the Trump event.
Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, released a statement. “Trump’s actions today were disgraceful. After five years of pushing a racist conspiracy theory into the mainstream, it was appalling to watch Trump appoint himself the judge of whether the President of the United States is American. This sickening display shows more than ever why Donald Trump is totally unfit be president.”