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Donald Trump’s birther speech is a commercial for his new hotel

GOP Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Gives Foreign Policy Address In DC Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

It’s already remarkable — in a bad way — that a nominee for president of the United States has to make a major speech to disavow the racist, baseless conspiracy theory he started about the president’s birth certificate.

But it’s even stranger that Donald Trump has managed to turn it into an advertisement for his new hotel in Washington, DC:

“Nice hotel,” he opened his remarks, which were part of a ceremony honoring Medal of Honor winners. He went on to call it one of the best hotels, maybe, in the world.

Most presidential candidates — well, most presidential candidates wouldn’t need to make this speech in the first place. But if they did, they’d find some kind of neutral ground to do it, somewhere like the National Press Club.

Of course, Trump does own the hotel, so there’s nothing wrong with him having an event there instead of somewhere else. But using the speech, and the Medal of Honor winner’s he honoring, to actively promote his own business and brag about how great it is is part of a long history of Trump using his campaign and his foundation to personally enrich himself. (Ivanka Trump, who’s using his policy platform to promote her own brand, is following in her father’s footsteps.)

A lot of Trump’s campaign spending goes right back to the Trump Organization. When Trump started relying on donors’ money to finance his campaign, he raised the rent for the offices in Trump Tower. His foundation spent $20,000 — of other people’s money — to buy a portrait of Trump himself. He hasn’t said that, as president, he’d put his investments in a blind trust or step back from managing his own business, aside from promising to turn it over to his children, who are also among his closest campaign advisers. And, of course, he hasn’t made any financial disclosures.

Using a highly unusual political appearance as an excuse to announce that his hotel is open for business is par for the course.

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