Since 2011, Donald Trump has been the most prominent spokesperson for birtherism — the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.
Trump’s embrace of birtherism is what propelled him to political prominence, making him a hero to the far-right seeking to drive their fringe views into the mainstream.
“[H]e could have been born in Kenya and gone over to the United States. Everybody wants to be a U.S. citizen, and his grandparents put an ad in saying he was born in the United States because of all the benefits you get from being born in the United States,” Trump told a national audience on CNN in April 2011.
But now, his campaign is desperately trying to backtrack — saying that, beginning in 2011, Trump came to believe that Obama was born in the United States.
But there’s a problem. Just hours earlier, Trump told the Washington Post to ignore comments from his campaign about his views on birtherism.
Trump told the reporter to disregard the fact that his campaign manager had previously said he believes Obama was born in the United States.
When asked whether his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was accurate when she said recently that he now believes Obama was born in this country, Trump responded: “It’s okay. She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”
Now, Trump is now expected to echo his campaign statement at a press conference on Friday at his new hotel in Washington, D.C. — appearing to believe that finally recognizing that Obama is a U.S. citizen will absolve him.
The media seems to be open to this. On Friday morning, George Stephanopoulos said Trump could “end it by simply saying, ‘Yes, the president was born in the United States, I was wrong.’”
Which brings us to the second problem with the statement: the idea that after Obama released his “long form” birth certificate in April 2011, Trump was convinced that he was born in the United States.
This is objectively false. For the last five years, Trump has perpetuated this racist conspiracy theory. He has openly questioned the validity of Obama’s birth certificate and gleefully perpetuated the myth that Obama was not born in the country, using it to his political advantage.
Trump also appears poised, as his campaign statement does, to pin the birther conspiracy theory on Hillary Clinton. This claim has also been definitively debunked.
A last-minute conversion does not erase this ugly history.
April 2011: In a press conference the day Obama’s “long-form” birth certificate was released, Trump questioned its authenticity
During a press conference in New Hampshire on April 27, 2011, Trump said it was “rather amazing that, all of a sudden, it materializes.” He said experts would have to evaluate its authenticity.
QUESTION: What are your qualifications to assess this? You say, you have to look at it and you have to decide. What gives you the authority the —
TRUMP: Well, I’m going to look at it and many other people are going to look at it. You are going to have many people looking at it. And, obviously, they are going to have to make a decision, because it is rather amazing that, all of the sudden, it materializes.
October 2011: Trump questions the validity of Obama’s birth certificate, says “many people say it is not real”
Trump was interviewed by Piers Morgan on CNN on October 27, 2011.
MORGAN: Do you accept that what he produced is valid?
TRUMP: No, I don’t necessarily.
MORGAN: But you believe he probably was born in America?
TRUMP: Well, I say he might have been
MORGAN: But what does your gut tell you? Because you are a smart guy.
TRUMP: “My gut tells me a couple of things. Number one, you know, it took a long time to produce the certificate and when it came out as you know, you check out the Internet, many people say it is not real. OK? That it’s a forgery. That’s what they say. I don’t know if it was.
MORGAN: That’s why the internet is a lot of nonsense, isn’t it?
TRUMP: You know what? OK, fine. But you know, they go over it and lots of different things and lots of different reasons. And the other thing is nobody has been able to see, you know, the day of his birth, they had twins born. They had — the other one born. Nobody has been able to find any records that he was born in that hospital.
May 2012: Trump says “a lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate”
Trump was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN on May 29, 2012.
BLITZER: Donald, you and I have known each other for a long time. And I don’t understand why you’re doubling down on this birther issue after the state of Hawaii formally says this is the legitimate birth certificate. He was born in Hawaii. Why are you going through all of this, Donald?
TRUMP: Well, a lot of people don’t agree with that birth certificate. A lot of people do not think it’s authentic.
BLITZER: But if the state of Hawaii authorizes it, if the state of Hawaii says, this is official, he was born in Hawaii on this date, here it is, why do you deny that?
TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.
May 2012: Trump says that “I’ve never really changed” on birtherism
Trump was interviewed on CNBC on May 29, 2012.
Q: Hey Donald before you go, just a quick switch topics on you. I want to go back to the birther stuff. You were fanning the flames last week. I saw a lot of the news around, we actually talked a little bit on the show, but are you back in the same place you were before?
TRUMP: No, I’ve never really changed. Nothing has changed my mind. By the way you have a huge group of people. I walk down the street and people are screaming, “Please don’t give that up.”
June 2012: Trump says there is evidence that Obama was “born in Kenya”
Trump was interviewed on CNBC on June 5, 2012.
TRUMP: “Well, no. He is entitled to his view, and I think that’s great. Look, I made the key note speech in North Carolina this weekend. The biggest applause was when the issue of birth place was brought up. It was standing, and the people went crazy. There are a lot of people that look at the numbers, and look at the facts that disagree. They have the right to disagree. That’s what this country is all about. President Obama wrote himself in his book that he, as you know, that was going to be published. The publisher put it out, a statement that he was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia.”
August 2012: Trump tweets that Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud
August 2012: Republicans should “take the offensive” on “birther issue”
September 2012: “Wake Up America!… Obama’s Birth Certificate Is Fake”
October 2012: Trump says he has “no idea” where Obama was born
Trump was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on October 26, 2012.
O’REILLY: Where do you think he was born?
TRUMP: I have no idea. I really have no idea. I really have no idea.
August 2013: Trump says “nobody” really knows where Obama was born
Trump was interviewed by ABC’s Jon Karl on August 11, 2013.
KARL: But you don’t still question he was born in the United States, do you?”
TRUMP: I have no idea… Well, I don’t know, was there a birth certificate? You tell me. You know some people say that was not his birth certificate. I’m saying, I don’t know. Nobody does.
December 2013: Trump suggests official who verified Obama’s birth certificate was murdered
May 2014: Trump says that “a lot of people” don’t think Obama’s birth certificate was real
Trump was interviewed by TV4 Ireland on May 14, 2014.
Q: You questioned his citizenship during his campaign. You’ve said afterwards if he produced that long form birth cert, you’d produce your tax returns, but you didn’t do it, did you?
TRUMP: I don’t know. Did he do it? If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns. Absolutely. I would love to do that. I did produce actually a financial statement even though I wasn’t even running, I did produce a financial statement and it was shocking to some because it was so much higher than people thought even possible. It was a great statement and it was my honor to do it. No, the president should come clean. He should have come clean over the years. If you remember the very famous story where I offered him $5 million if he showed some basic records and he never took me up on it and that would be for charity. Charities would have benefited and it would have been a great think.
FITZPATRICK: He is a citizen. He produced that long form birth certificate…
TRUMP: A lot of people don’t agree with you. A lot of people feel it wasn’t a proper certificate
September 2014: Trump encourages hackers to check Obama’s “place of birth”
August 2015: Trump says “I don’t know” where Obama was born
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know why he wouldn’t release his records,” Trump told CNN on July 7, 2015.
January 2016: Trump said he will write a book about his theories on Obama’s birthplace
Trump was interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on January 6, 2016.
BLITZER: Because you know your critics are saying you’re doing to Ted Cruz what you tried to do to President Obama, where he was born, his birth certificate.
TRUMP: Who knows about Obama?
BLITZER: His mother was a U.S. citizen-born in Kansas. Was he a natural-born citizen?
TRUMP: Who knows? Who knows? Who cares right now? We’re talking about something else, OK. I mean, I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I’ll write a book. I’ll do another book, and it will do very successfully.