Was Donald Trump a birther?
Of course he was.
Beginning in 2011, he was the de facto leader of the movement that questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States. It was and is a reprehensible question, one that’s soaked in racism. Trump proudly asked it, and often.
But here’s some news: Trump did it for altruistic reasons. That’s what his campaign said late Thursday when it claimed that Trump’s goal all along was not to promote birtherism, but to end the birther ugliness by “successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate.”
Is that a lie?
Of course it is.
Trump didn’t stop the birther talk after Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. In 2012, Trump tweeted “Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate” and linked to a “report” that called Obama “Kenyan-born.” Later that year, he tweeted that an “extremely credible source” told him that the birth certificate was a fraud.
And so it went, with more tweets and television interviews (including one this year) that suggested he still had doubts about Obama’s birthplace. As late as this week, Trump hadn’t admitted that the president was constitutionally eligible for the office he’s held for almost eight years.
On Friday, Trump finally did so, but even his moment of truth was couched in a lie. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign started the birther controversy,” he said. “I finished it.” In fact, Clinton denounced those rumors during her campaign. When a Clinton campaign worker was caught emailing birther material in 2007, she was fired.
But we should be accustomed by now to Donald Trump saying things that aren’t true. He has lied about being “totally against” the Iraq war before the 2003 U.S. invasion. He’s lied about Obama admitting 200,000 Syrian refugees. He’s lied about seeing thousands of New Jersey Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks. And more.
This is the same candidate, by the way, who says there’s nothing to see in the tax returns he won’t release.
Yes, Hillary Clinton has her own issues with the truth and transparency, for which we’ve criticized her regularly in this space. But Trump’s falsehoods dwarf Clinton’s in frequency and scope, and that’s not even counting the wink-and-nod conspiracies he regularly promotes.
A stat for you: On PolitiFact, the fact-checking web site, 53 percent of Trump’s statements were rated as “false” or “pants on fire,” compared with 13 percent of Clinton’s. No, 13 percent is not something for a candidate to brag about, but 53 percent should make voters shudder.
On Friday, Trump added one to the pile. Without daring to take questions, the prince of birthers tried to blame the candidate who has denounced the birther movement. It was outrageous and insulting, but at this point with Donald Trump, was it at all a surprise?
Of course it wasn’t.