Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose questioning of Barack Obama’s presidential eligibility in 2011 preceded the White House’s release of what it claimed was Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate, said on Friday the issue is settled.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” Trump said. “And now we all want to get back to making American strong and great again.”
His comment came at the end of a press conference in which he promoted his new hotel in Washington and was endorsed by a number of military veterans.
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The birth certificate issue arose during the 2008 presidential campaign, based on the Constitution’s requirement that the president must be a “natural born citizen.” The Constitution doesn’t define the term, but many constitutional scholars believe it means being born on U.S. soil of U.S. citizen parents.
Obama’s mother was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth, but his father never was. Some critics argued his mother was too young to have passed along American citizenship to Obama.
Eventually, Obama publicly released in 2011 in a White House news conference a document he said was his Hawaii birth certificate.
The only official law enforcement investigation into the issue, authorized by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, concluded the document was fraudulent.
Obama quipped Friday he was “pretty confident about where I was born.”
Hillary Clinton has labeled people who raise the eligibility issue as racists, accusing them of trying to “delegitimize” the nation’s first black president.
Clinton responded to Trump’s remarks Friday saying he owes Americans an apology and that his campaign was founded on the “outrageous lie” Obama was not born in the U.S.
“We know who Donald is. For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president,” Clinton said at an event in Washington, D.C.
In his brief remarks, Friday, however, Trump said it was Hillary Clinton and her 2008 presidential campaign of 2008 that “started the birther controversy.”
Media widely have insisted they investigated the claim and found no evidence for it. But Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008, Patti Solis Doyle, admitted on Friday that a Clinton campaign staffer circulated the theory that Obama was born outside the U.S. and, therefore, was ineligible to serve, Breitbart reported.
In a Twitter conversation with former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, Doyle admitted she had fired a “rogue” staffer who had spread the theory via email.
In an interview later with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Doyle denied Hillary Clinton started the birther movement, but she confirmed that someone working for the campaign in late December 2007 in Iowa “did forward an email that promoted the conspiracy.”
Doyle said she couldn’t recall whether the person was a “volunteer coordinator” or a paid staffer.
“Yeah, Hillary made the decision immediately to let that person go,” Doyle said. “We let that person go. And it was so, beyond the pale, Wolf, and so not worthy of the kind of campaign that certainly Hillary wanted to run.”
Blitzer also brought up a memorandum by Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn that proposed exploiting Obama’s “lack of American roots.”
Doyle asserted, and Blitzer agreed, that the memo had nothing to do with the circumstances of Obama’s birth.
Clinton, meanwhile, said Trump’s campaign “was founded on this outrageous lie” that Obama is not a natural-born citizen.
“There is no erasing it in history,” she said. “Just yesterday, Trump again refused to say with his own words that the president was born in the United States. Now, Donald’s advisers have a temerity to say he’s doing the country a service by pushing these lies.
“No, he isn’t. He is feeding into the worst impulses — the bigotry and bias that lurks in our country,” said Clinton.
“Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple, and Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.
“Donald Trump looks at President Obama after eight years as our president — he still doesn’t see him as an American. Think of how dangerous that is,” she said. “Imagine a person in the Oval Office who traffics in conspiracy theories and refuses to let them go no matter what the facts are.”
Reporters at the press conference Friday were irritated that Trump did not respond to their questions, which were shouted from the back of the room.
“Why won’t you take questions?” a London Daily Mail reporter shouted at him, the publication reported. “Why did it take you so long to say this?”
Trump’s senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, had said the issue already was closed as far as Trump was concerned.
“In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate,” he said.
“Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”
He added, “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.”
The Daily Mail reported that the “rumors” about Obama’s alleged ineligibility to be president started when Obama was whipping Clinton in their run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.
“They started in an anonymous email circulated by Clinton supporters,” the report said, although “Clinton herself never publicly agreed with them.”
Over the years, Trump had tweeted several challenges to Obama and others regarding the issue, one time urging hackers to find Obama’s college records, which he has refused to release, “and check ‘place of birth.'”
In a commentary, Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center pointed out that perhaps Obama bears the blame for “birtherism.”
After all, Obama authorized a biography for a book proposal before his time in public office that stated, at the time, “Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya…”
“Donald Trump simply rehashed the material Obama and Clinton provided. He was very late to the party,” Vadum wrote.