Reversing Course, Trump Admits Obama was Born in the US
The birther conspiracy movement is aimed at challenging the legality of Obama’s presidency.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday abandoned his false claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States after spending five years peddling conspiracy theories that the country’s first African-American president started life as a foreigner.
But, never one to let a controversy go without fanning its flames, Trump accused Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival in the 8 November election, of starting the so-called birther movement in her failed 2008 presidential campaign against Obama, a claim that does not stand up to scrutiny.
Trump, who has won back some ground in opinion polls and made the White House race more competitive after he went through a summer slump, made his announcement in an attempt to clear the air as he prepares for the first of three televised presidential debates with Clinton on 26 September.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” said Trump, a real estate developer. “Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again,” he said at an event in Washington at a new Trump International Hotel down the street from the White House.
Devoting only about 30 seconds to the subject, Trump did not apologise and did not expand upon his abrupt decision to shift from a stance he held for five years.
The New York businessman brought up the birther controversy as far back as 2011, appealing to a right-wing fringe of voters who formed the early base of his support when he launched his presidential bid last year.
The birther conspiracy movement is aimed at challenging the legality of Obama’s presidency – the US Constitution requires that a president be a natural-born citizen.
During his presidential campaign, Trump has readily trafficked in other theories that are the stuff of American supermarket tabloids.
There was his declaration that the father of US Senator Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s many rivals for the Republican nomination, might have been linked to the assassin of President John F Kennedy. And there was his false claim that thousands of Muslims in Jersey City, New Jersey, cheered when the World Trade Center twin towers collapsed in the 11 September 2001 attacks.
In making his announcement on Friday, Trump advanced a widely debunked claim that Clinton and her 2008 campaign had been the original birthers.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. You know what I mean,” he said.
His campaign directed reporters to a 2007 memo from then-Clinton adviser Mark Penn, who had encouraged the Clinton campaign to go negative against Obama by saying that his Hawaiian birth and boyhood in Indonesia gave him limited roots in American values and culture.
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