In a roughly 30-minute Donald Trump event billed as a press conference on birtherism, Trump spoke to the subject for merely 36 seconds. And all 36 seconds were a lie.
Campaign surrogates, all veterans, used the first 29 minutes of the event to boost Trump. Only then did Trump speak about the conspiracy theory around Barack Obama’s birthplace — a racist conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, which Trump has fanned for many years.
Here are his full remarks on the issue of Obama’s birthplace:
"Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again. Thank you, thank you very much," Trump said.
This statement is simply false. Here’s a breakdown of each of his two claims:
On Hillary Clinton starting the birther conspiracy theory:
As reported by PolitiFact, "there is no record that Clinton herself or anyone within her campaign ever advanced the charge that Obama was not born in the United States."
As my colleague Andrew Prokop explained, this charge that Clinton is to blame for the birther movement has been debunked many times:
Now, the small grain of truth here is that a few Clinton supporters did circulate the theory online during the contentious 2008 primary, according to Politico’s Ben Smith. But once the primary concluded and Obama first released his birth certificate that summer, this chatter quieted down in those circles, and moved instead to more right-wing precincts.
On Trump’s claim that he "finished" the conspiracy theory:
Trump tried to pass off his involvement in the conspiracy theory as a public service, since he fanned the conspiracy theory for years, ultimately pushing Obama to release his birth certificate. But this interpretation is not just generous. It’s just a lie.
Trump’s involvement with the birther movement is heavily documented: The Republican nominee launched his national political career by bringing birth certificate conspiracies to national prominence over the past eight years, demanding Obama release his birth documents, and then questioning the validity of those documents when Obama released his long-form birth certificate in 2011.
Despite the Trump campaign's efforts to distance the Republican nominee from his long and ugly history with the birther movement, Trump has repeatedly propped up this movement — even recently as this week. In an interview, he told the Washington Post he wasn’t "ready" to say whether or not he believed Obama was born in the United States.
When asked about it in January 2016, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, "Who knows about Obama?":
WOLF BLITZER: His mother was a US citizen born in Kansas, so was he a natural born citizen?
DONALD TRUMP: Who knows? Who knows? Who cares right now? We're talking about something else, okay? I'm going to have my own theory on Obama. Someday I'll write a book, I'll do another book that will do successfully.
Here is a brief rundown of Trump’s tweets on birtherism over the course of Obama’s presidency.
Trump continued the birther movement, he certainly did not "finish" it.