WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was founded on an “outrageous lie” that President Obama was not born in the United States and that “there is no erasing it in history.”
In a speech to a black women’s group in Washington Friday, Clinton blasted Trump for his past refusal to acknowledge that Obama is a native-born citizen, including in the years after Obama produced his birth certificate to dispel the rumors Trump had been fanning.
“For 5 years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president,” said Clinton. “Donald’s advisers had the temerity to say he’s doing the country a service by pushing these lies. No, he isn’t."
“He is feeding into the worst impulses, the bigotry and bias that lurks in our country,” the Democratic presidential nominee added. “Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple, and Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.”
Clinton's speech preceded a statement by Trump on the issue, which the real estate mogul delivered from his new Washington hotel Friday. The GOP nominee said Clinton and her supporters started the birther movement and he "finished it" before publicly acknowledging for the first time that Obama "was born in the United States, period."
Trump's claim that Clinton was the one who first brought up the “birther” claim has previously been rated false by Politifact and given four pinocchios by The Washington Post Fact Checker.
Trump in the past repeatedly raised questions about whether the president was born in Hawaii and emerged as a leading proponent of the so-called birther movement. Even after Obama released his official birth certificate in 2011, Trump called its validity into question. The GOP nominee had largely avoided the subject during his 2016 presidential campaign prior to Friday's remarks. In January of this year, when Trump was asked on CNN if Obama is a natural-born citizen, Trump said, "Who knows ... I have my own theory on Obama."
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon responded to Friday's acknowledgement by saying Trump "took no responsibility for his bigoted attacks on our president."
For her part, Clinton is trying to reboot her White House bid after taking time off from the campaign trail following a pneumonia diagnosis a week earlier that was disclosed by the campaign on Sunday. She returned to active campaigning Thursday with a rally in Greensboro, N.C.
In recent days, Trump has erased Clinton's earlier advantages in national polls.
While Trump has been reaching out to black audiences, his role in the “birther” movement remains a significant hurdle. The issue has given Clinton a powerful line to appeal to black audiences that already overwhelmingly support her.
“Donald Trump looks at President Obama after 8 years as our president, he still doesn’t see him as an American,” Clinton said during her Friday remarks. “Imagine a person in the Oval Office who traffics in conspiracy theories and refuses to let them go, no matter what the facts are,” Clinton said.
“Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States. We cannot become insensitive to what he says and what he stirs up. We can’t just accept this,” she added.