New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), Donald Trump’s transition chairman, was grilled on Sunday on both Fox News Sunday and CNN’s State of the Union about the birther issue. In both, he continued to push Trump’s widely–debunked claims that Hillary Clinton started the racist conspiracy theory based on the idea President Obama was born in Kenya and therefore constitutionally not eligible to be president of the United States and that he had accepted Obama’s citizenship after the release of his birth certificate in 2011.
On Friday, Donald Trump addressed the press from the soon-to-open Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. where he said he would finally put the birther issue to bed. After an array of military vets gave their endorsements to Trump, the reality television star said that President Obama had, in fact, been born in the United States. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.” He took no questions.
On Sunday, Trump’s vice presidential nominee Mike Pence told ABC the issue was over. But Trump’s proxies haven’t let this issue die. Christie on Sunday repeated the clearly debunked claims that Trump dropped the issue in 2011.
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) September 18, 2016
CNN’s Jake Tapper noted that “as a point of fact, again, Donald Trump did not accept when Barack Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. He kept up this whole ‘birther’ thing until Friday. That’s five years.” Christie responded that it’s “just not true that he kept it up for five years,” because Trump wasn’t “talking about it on a regular basis” over that time.
On Fox, Christie also claimed that it wasn’t Trump but Clinton who brought doubts about Obama’s birthplace to the public eye.
During the interview, Christie told host Chris Wallace, “it was a contentious issue and an issue that the Clinton campaign in 2008 has admitted was an issue that Mrs. Clinton injected into her campaign in 2008 in a very quiet, but direct way against then-Senator Obama.”
Wallace pushed back and asked for proof from Christie. Christie pointed to comments by Patti Solis Doyle, Clinton’s 2008 campaign chief.
“If you’re going to go there, what she said is that some volunteer in Iowa raised the question and was immediately fired,” Wallace said. “That hardly seems like they were pushing the birther issue.” In fact, Solis Doyle told CNN on Friday no one from the Clinton campaign, including Hillary herself, started the birther campaign against Obama and that an Iowa volunteer coordinator who had forwarded a conspiracy email had been immediately fired.
On the ropes, Christie doubled down again, suggesting without evidence that Clinton campaign could have started it through a series of whisper campaigns.