Trump gives up birther fight
Concession Obama born in U.S. doesn’t silence his critics
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s rise to political prominence grew partly out of his willingness to stoke fringe theories about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, views that made him popular with many Republicans and conspiracy buffs but became a drag on his White House aspirations.
Trump sought to sweep away five years of questioning Obama’s legitimacy in a few seconds Friday. He did so not with a thoughtful reflection exploring his change of heart or an apology, but a quick statement at the end of a promotional media spectacle showcasing his newest hotel.
Rather than acknowledge his role in the birther movement that spread false claims about the president, Trump instead sparked two new unfounded theories: He blamed rival Hillary Clinton for having started it and took credit for being the one who “finished it.”
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” Trump said in quick remarks at an event honoring supportive veterans. “Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”
As reporters shouted questions, Trump walked off the stage and toured the new hotel for the cameras.
“We know who Donald is,” Clinton said to an African-American women’s GOP nominee Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton started the birther controversy against President Barack Obama. group in Washington, accusing Trump of “feeding the worst impulses” of bigotry with his campaign.
“For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize the first black president,” she said. “His campaign was founded on this lie. There is no erasing it in history.”
The episode drew in Obama, who has endured questions about his birth in Hawaii for years.
“I was pretty confident about where I was born,” Obama said. “I think most people were as well, and I would hope that a presidential election reflects more serious issues.”
As the presidential contest narrows, Trump has come under increasing pressure to distance himself from his role in the birther movement.
Democrats and some Republican leaders have called the theory an effort to undermine the nation’s first black president.
Trump was the most prominent person to promote the view that Obama was born elsewhere, which aligned him with white nationalists but alienated many mainstream voters.
After listening to veterans who endorse him laud his candidacy, Trump made his statement and left, ignoring reporters’ questions after claiming credit for resolving the problem.
In a statement, his aides accused Clinton of promoting the rumors during her 2008 Democratic primary fight against Obama.
A Clinton adviser had suggested in an internal memo that the campaign should focus on her middleAmerican roots, a counter to Obama’s multicultural upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia.
The strategy was rejected and no evidence has emerged that she or her staff embarked on any organized effort to target his citizenship.
As for Trump’s insistence that he “finished” the debate over Obama’s birthplace, he continued to question it long after 2011, when, his campaign said, he brought “this ugly incident to its conclusion” after Obama released his long-form birth certificate.
“What a liar,” Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the top Democrat in the Senate, said in a CNN interview shortly after Trump’s announcement. “He is just such a phony.”
Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, who were holding an annual gathering in Washington, denounced Trump as a “fraud” and “con artist.”
“It’s a defining moment for all those who want to denounce bigotry and racism,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. “Demand an apology from this man.”
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, DN.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, “Most Americans can see right through what he was trying to do today.”
Republicans, though, were pleased that Trump has distanced his campaign