Trump gives up birther fight

Con­ces­sion Obama born in U.S. doesn’t si­lence his crit­ics

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Lisa Mas­caro and Noah Bier­man

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

SHAWN THEW/EPA

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