Donald Trump, who led efforts for years to question President Barack Obama’s birthplace, acknowledged Friday that Obama was born in the United States.
Trump, in his brief acknowledgment, tried to blame Hillary Clinton for starting the rumor in her 2008 primary campaign against her fellow Democrat.
“I finished it. I finished it,” Trump said in brief remarks and refusing to take questions even as reporters shouted. “You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.”
He added “Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again. Thank you.”
Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Aug. 4, 1961.
Reporters – who had believed he would answer questions stood on chairs and shouted at Trump to answer why he believes that now – and didn’t as recently as two years ago.
Trump’s brief statement comes as Trump has sought to court African-American voters, who have been cool to his overtures.
He as recently as Wednesday night refused to say that he believed Obama was born in the United States, telling the Washington Post he would answer the question at the “right time.”
His campaign late Thursday issued a statement after the Post story was published, with a spokesman saying that Trump now believes that Obama was born in the United States and that he had performed a “great service” to Obama and the country by “bringing closure to the issue.” The statement also argued, against the facts, that Clinton and her campaign had first raised the issue.
Trump on Friday also sought to lay the blame for the birther controversy on Hillary Clinton, though fact checkers have repeatedly called the charge false. Although a Clinton supporter in 2008 circulated an email that questioned where Obama was born, independent fact checkers found there was no record that Clinton or anyone in her campaign ever advanced the charge that Obama was not born in the United States.
Clinton, appearing crosstown at The Black Women’s Agenda, decried Trump’s history as a birther, saying that for five years he led the push “to delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”
“Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple,” she said. “And Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.”
Obama himself appeared frustrated, if not surprised, to address the subject yet again.
“...I’m shocked that a question like that has come up at a time when we have so many other things to do,” Obama said. “Well, I’m not that shocked actually. It’s fairly typical. We got other things to attend to. I was pretty confident about where I was born. I think most people were as well. My hope would be the presidential elect, election reflects more serious issues than that.”
Trump’s statement came only after 30 minutes of tributes from veterans and two of the 17 Medal of Honor recipients who endorsed him earlier this week. They extolled his candidacy, with Vietnam veteran Mike Thornton, arguing that “we do not need any more bureaucratic leadership in Washington, D.C.
”Mr. Trump has never failed at anything,” Thornton said. “We need somebody who is going to lead from the front like Donald Trump.”
The event – held at Trump’s newest hotel just blocks from the White House – provided a major boost for Trump’s business, as the networks, expecting a promised “major announcement” from Trump, went live with coverage.
Trump opened the event with a boast that his hotel - which opens officially in October -- will be among the “best” hotels “in the world. He touted it before the event, telling Fox Business News he was opening “exactly on budget, even a little under budget, and about a year and a half ahead of schedule. That’s something you don’t hear from government.”
Trump ally Rudy Giuliani said last week that Trump came around to the idea of Obama as U.S.-born “two years ago, three years ago” but Trump as recently as two years ago invited “all hackers” to uncover Obama’s “place of birth.” He told Irish TV that year that Obama “should come clean,” Buzzfeed reported. “A lot of people feel it wasn’t a proper certificate,” Trump said after the host noted that Obama had released his birth certificate.
Trump has claimed to have devoted considerable resources to Obama’s birth place, telling reporters in 2011 that he had sent a team of his own investigators to Hawaii in hopes of resolving the issue.
He insisted at the time that it could be “one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in the history, period. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now, I have real doubts.”
Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Aug. 4, 1961, despite allegations from birthers who charged that he was likely born in his father’s native Kenya, despite all evidence to the contrary. The White House released the president’s long-form birth certificate in 2011.
Obama’s campaign in June 2008 put his “certificate of live birth” from Hawaii - the only form of birth certificate the state publicly issues - on the Internet. Since then, Hawaii Department of Health officials confirmed Obama was born in the state. In addition, reporters and others found newspaper birth announcements for Obama that were published in Honolulu newspapers soon after his Aug. 4, 1961, birth.
It wasn’t enough for Trump, who pressed for Obama to release more proof. But Trump said even after Obama released his birth certificate that he didn’t accept it as conclusive - until weeks out from the November election.