Donald Trump has a new excuse for why he has been a birther for all these years–let’s call it “the excuse of a five-year-old”: Hillary Clinton started it!
After weeks of Trump refusing to answer the question, his campaign put out a statement on September 15, and he reiterated the statement in his own words the next day.
“Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama,” wrote Trump’s Senior Communications Advisor Jason Miller, whose name sounds humorously similar to that of the PR man Trump once pretended to be. There you have it: In the words of the Trump campaign, the birth certificate controversy was a smear.
So why did Trump raise the issue in 2011, then, years after it had been proven—in part due to the controversy that Trump blames on Hillary—that Obama was born in Hawaii?
Trump raised this “smear” multiple times from March to April 2011, even though Obama had already released his short-form birth certificate in 2008. When Obama released his long-form birth certificate Trump took credit for cracking the mystery that a single Google searched could have solved.
“Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States,” J. Miller wrote.
But Trump hasn’t always seemed so sure that what he obtained was really Obama’s birth certificate. “A lot of people don’t agree with you and a lot of people feel it wasn’t a proper certificate,” Trump said in 2014 in an interview with Ireland TV3’s Colette Fitzpatrick. In a 2013 interview with ABC News, he said, “Was it a birth certificate? You tell me. Some people say that was not his birth certificate. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows.”
That’s some closure. Nor was Trump the Closer able to get Obama’s college records and passport applications released, as he tried to do with a pledge to donate $5 million to charity. Hell, Trump hasn’t even been able to get his own tax returns released, despite a pledge in 2011 to release his tax returns if Obama released his birth certificate. No wonder Obama might not trust him about the $5 million.
Who actually got Obama’s birth certificate released? According to Trump’s argument that Hillary was responsible for the birther controversy, it was Hillary Rodham Clinton. After all, Trump’s campaign says that Hillary’s campaign was the first to raise the issue, and Obama did release his certificate of live birth in 2008. Certificates of live birth are issued first for record-keeping purposes, before the information is confirmed by the father, but if a hospital might misspell a name, it is unlikely that a hospital would not know where it existed. That the Kapiolani Maternity Hospital listed Honolulu as its location pretty well answered the only “question” in “doubt.”
Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and Orly Taitz continued the crusade in the ensuing years, and MSNBC gave Taitz airtime to try to associate birtherism with Republicans. Dave Weigel, who was then the “conservative” correspondent for the Washington Post, published multiple articles about Taitz’s Republican primary campaign for California Secretary of State.
It wasn’t until big TV names like Lou Dobbs and Donald Trump started supporting the birther crusade that it got real traction in the media. Rather than dismissing it, Trump revived the “smears” and has continued to refuse to admit that Obama is a natural born American ever since.
It’s funny to see him now try to pin his own support for birtherism on Hillary. Why is he too ashamed to take credit for something he says he heroically got the president to do? When, in the first paragraph, the Trump campaign accused Clinton’s campaign of being behind it, it called birtherism “vicious and conniving behavior [that] is straight from the Clinton Playbook.” Later he praised himself for taking up the cause. Which is it? Either Clinton was right for getting the ball moving on an important issue, or she and Trump were both wrong for making vicious and hateful smears.
As it happens, Clinton never raised birtherism, and neither, according to the evidence Trump provides, did her campaign. One of the links goes to a video titled “John Heinemann Confirms Hillary’s 2008 Campaign Began Obama-Muslim Rumors.”
If Trump wants to conflate the smear that Obama is a Muslim with the smear that Obama was born in Kenya—both related smears but not exactly the same—then that would put him on record this campaign as being a birther. Asked on Meet the Press if he could ever support a Muslim for president, Trump said, “some people think it already happened.”
Who might those “some people” be? Donald Trump’s New York State campaign co-chairman Carl Paladino, who said, “In the mind of the average American, there is no doubt he is a Muslim. He is not a Christian.,” and RNC speaker Antonio Sabàto Jr, who said Obama is “absolutely” a Muslim, and probably Trump himself, too. I mean, it’s inconceivable that someone who doesn’t think Obama is a secret Muslim could keep repeating innuendo about Obama being a secret Muslim. It’s like he’s got something else in his mind.
Concerns about Obama’s origin of birth were either legitimate or they were a smear. It’s either one or the other. It doesn’t change based on who says it.