After Promoting Birther Movement, Trump Admits Obama Was Born In U.S.

Sep 16, 2016
Originally published on September 16, 2016 6:41 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

After five years of speculation, insinuation and repeated false statements, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump now says he believes President Obama was born in the United States. NPR's Scott Detrow has more.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Donald Trump was the leader of the birther movement, the fringe push to discredit the nation's first black president as an outsider born in Kenya and therefore ineligible to hold office. Here he is on "The View" in 2011.

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DONALD TRUMP: I really believe there's a birth certificate. Why - look, she's smiling - why doesn't he show his birth certificate? And you know what...

DETROW: It was Trump's high-profile questions that forced Obama to confront the issue in 2011. Obama walked into the White House briefing room in April and released his long-form birth certificate.

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BARACK OBAMA: We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We've got better stuff to do. I've got better stuff to do.

DETROW: Trump has been asked about this over and over during his presidential campaign. Philadelphia TV station WPVI asked him earlier this month.

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TRUMP: I don't talk about it...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Do you regret bringing it up back then?

TRUMP: I told you I don't talk about it anymore.

DETROW: But before he ran for president, Trump had kept talking about it and kept pushing rumors in the years after Obama released the certificate - on Twitter and in TV interviews. This is a 2014 interview on Irish television.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But he is a citizen. He produced that long-form birth certificate.

TRUMP: Well, a lot of people don't agree with you, and a lot of people feel it wasn't a proper certificate.

DETROW: This all came to a head last night when The Washington Post published an interview where they asked Trump again if he thought Obama was born in America. And Trump refused to answer the question. So today at an event in his new Washington, D.C., hotel, Trump said this.

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TRUMP: Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

DETROW: That just isn't true. Stories have been written about a 2007 memo from a Clinton adviser that urged her to raise questions about Obama's childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia, arguing he could be portrayed as out of touch with most Americans. But Clinton never pushed this theory in 2008, and neither did anyone on her campaign.

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TRUMP: I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States - period.

DETROW: Late last night, his campaign issued a statement saying Trump, quote, "did a great service to the president and the country" by raising questions about Obama's birthplace. While Trump sees himself as doing Obama a favor, many people, particularly black voters, view the entire birther movement as an attempt to undercut Obama.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus held an event responding to Trump's statement, calling Trump's insinuations an insult to all Americans - a sentiment Hillary Clinton shares and has voiced all year. Here she is this morning.

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HILLARY CLINTON: For five years he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.

DETROW: Trump did not take questions at his event. When members of the media yelled their questions at him from the back of the room, Trump ignored them.

Some of the questions that were in my notebook ready to be asked - Trump has continued to question Obama's birthplace in the years since the president released his birth certificate. What caused him to change his mind? Trump has been asked about this over and over during his run for president. Why admit this now, less than two months from Election Day? Trump has been trying to reach out to black voters in recent weeks. How does he explain his actions to them?

So far, we have no answers to those questions from the Republican nominee for president. Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.