Nets Deflect Reports of Clinton Birtherism as Only CNN Presses Kaine

As Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine appeared on five Sunday talk shows across ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox, only CNN's Jake Tapper brought up Friday's reports that longtime Hillary Clinton friend and advisor Sidney Blumenthal tried to push anti-Obama birtherism into the media during the 2008 presidential campaign by pitching it to McClatchy's then-Washington bureau chief. The other Sunday talk shows failed to bring up the story even though Senator Kaine in most of his appearances complained about birtherism, at several points calling it "bigoted," and the Blumenthal/McClatchy revelation only got mentioned if it was brought up by a Republican guest.

ABC's Martha Raddatz asserted that there was "no proof," and CBS's John Dickerson claimed there was "no evidence" of a Clinton connection to 2008 birtherism. Dickerson only conceded the possibility of Blumenthal's involvement after it was recalled by RNC chairman Reince Priebus, but the CBS host still dismissed its significance. NBC's Chuck Todd proclaimed flat out that birtherism "did not start with Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign," vaguely downplaying reports to the contrary as "some supporters" who "did go rogue." And Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace, who will be moderating one of the debates, actually asked Senator Kaine if Trump is a "racist," rather than take the time to ask about the Blumenthal story.

By contrast, on CNN's State of the Union, Tapper devoted two questions to pressing Senator Kaine on Blumenthal, and wondered if Clinton should promise not to appoint him to any White House position. The CNN host posed:

Sidney Blumenthal -- a longtime Clinton confidant and friend -- was peddling the birther lie in 2008, according to the former Washington bureau chief of the McClatchy news group. McClatchy says that they went so far as to have a reporter in Kenya look into it because of what Sidney Blumenthal told them. Has Secretary Clinton or the campaign in any way looked into whether Blumenthal was pushing the birther lie?

After Senator Kaine, recalling that the longtime Clinton friend has denied the report, tried to change the subject, Tapper persisted:

There's no doubt that it (birtherism) is offensive and it is a lie, but I'm asking you about Sidney Blumenthal, who was banned from joining the Obama administration by the Obama White House precisely because he trafficked in a lot of questionable information about Barack Obama. If it's true, if there's evidence that Sidney Blumenthal did push the birther lie, should Hillary Clinton disassociate herself from Blumenthal? And should she pledge he will not work in her administration?

Tapper notably was the first CNN anchor to inform viewers of the Blumenthal story on Friday afternoon, although other CNN anchors for the rest of the day tried to evade or downplay the development.

During NBC's roundtable segment, Todd did bring up the story to former Barack Obama campaign team member Cornell Belcher as he asked what he thought of reports about the 2008 Clinton campaign being involved in birtherism, although Belcher denied any knowledge of such behavior. Todd:

Let me ask you, you were on the '08 campaign with Barack Obama. Do you want to clear up what you guys thought about what the Clinton campaign and Sidney Blumenthal, what did you guys believe? ... You never thought Mark Penn was trying to -- you said "otherness." Mark Penn wrote about "other." Did you think he was toying in that world?

And on Fox News Sunday, Wallace played a clip of Trump accusing Clinton of starting birtherism and then wondered if Trump was a racist:

CHRIS WALLACE: Trump also made a statement on Friday about the birther movement. Let's take a look at that.

DONALD TRUMP: 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..

WALLACE: Senator, do you think that Donald Trump is a racist?

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of ABC's This Week, CBS's Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, CNN's State of the Union, and Fox News Sunday from Sunday, September 18:

#ABC's This Week:

MARTHA RADDATZ: He said Friday that Hillary Clinton and her campaign were at fault for this birther movement as well, and you just said it yourself. What is the proof? Because we can't find any, and fact checkers have looked into that, that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement.

GOVERNOR MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Well, I just would refer you to news reports, the McClatchy news service and reports of people in your industry, Martha.

RADDATZ: The reports of people in my industry say there's no proof that they can find that Hillary Clinton had anything to do with it


#CBS's Face the Nation:

10:44 a.m. ET

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: And you know that the former D.C. bureau chief of McClatchy newspaper, a respected journalist, just on Friday, John, said that he was approached, he had a meeting with Sid Blumenthal, who's a very close confidant of both Clintons and then was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation thereafter, he had a meeting with him where Sid Blumenthal allegedly told him that President Obama was not born in this country and to go check it out.

(...)

10:50 a.m. ET

JOHN DICKERSON (to the RNC's Reince Priebus): There's also no evidence that Hillary Clinton herself had anything to do with this. There's some rumors that people on her staff, and there was one person that was caught spreading rumors about Barack Obama (inaudible) fired.

(...)

DICKERSON: She said she fired the one person who brought it up immediately. There's a difference between firing a person immediately and-

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: What about Sid Blumenthal? Was he involved or not?

DICKERSON: Well, let's assume that he was. So you have a person spreading rumors, and then you have somebody making a five-year crusade holding press conferences.


#NBC's Meet the Press:

CHUCK TODD: First, Trump finally dropped his false suggestion that President Obama wasn't born in the United States, and then immediately made another one.

DONALD TRUMP: 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.

TODD: For what it's worth, the so-called birther controversy did not start with Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, though there is evidence some supporters did go rogue in spreading around the rumor. It did start on the fringes and was perpetuated on the far right, and has been promoted and nurtured by Donald Trump for the past five years.

(...)

TODD: Let me ask you, you were on the '08 campaign with Barack Obama. Do you want to clear up what you guys thought about what the Clinton campaign and Sidney Blumenthal, what did you guys believe?

[CORNELL BELCHER, BRILLIANT CORNERS PRESIDENT]

You never thought Mark Penn was trying to -- you said "otherness." Mark Penn wrote about "other." Did you think he was toying in that world?


CNN's State of the Union:

9:24 a.m. ET
JAKE TAPPER: Obviously, Secretary Clinton making a big deal out of the fact that for years Donald Trump pushed the birther lie, the false suggestion that President Obama was not born in this country. Sidney Blumenthal -- a longtime Clinton confidant and friend -- was peddling the birther lie in 2008, according to the former Washington bureau chief of the McClatchy news group. McClatchy says that they went so far as to have a reporter in Kenya look into it because of what Sidney Blumenthal told them. Has Secretary Clinton or the campaign in any way looked into whether Blumenthal was pushing the birther lie?

[SENATOR TIM KAINE (D-VA)]

There's no doubt that it (birtherism) is offensive and it is a lie, but I'm asking you about Sidney Blumenthal, who was banned from joining the Obama administration by the Obama White House precisely because he trafficked in a lot of questionable information about Barack Obama. If it's true, if there's evidence that Sidney Blumenthal did push the birther lie, should Hillary Clinton disassociate herself from Blumenthal? And should she pledge he will not work in her administration?


#Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE: Trump also made a statement on Friday about the birther movement. Let's take a look at that.

DONALD TRUMP: 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..

WALLACE: Senator, do you think that Donald Trump is a racist?

Tell the Truth 2016

NB Daily Campaign Watch 2016 Presidential Debates Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats McClatchy Newspapers ABC This Week CBS Face the Nation FOX Fox News Sunday NBC Meet the Press CNN Other CNN Video Tim Kaine Chris Wallace Martha Raddatz Chuck Todd John Dickerson Jake Tapper Mike Pence Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Sidney Blumenthal


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