New York Times political reporter Michael Barbaro, perennially hostile toward Republicans, led Saturday’s edition with 700 words of seething hostility against Donald Trump under the guise of a “news analysis”: “Trump Gives Up a Lie But Refuses to Repent – No Apology After 5 Years of Nurturing ‘Birther’ Issue to Undermine Obama.” Maggie Haberman and Alan Rappeport offered a related story that also categorically denied any Hillary-birther connection: “Trump Drops False ‘Birther’ Claim but Offers New One: Clinton Started It.”
Barbaro denied that the Hillary Clinton camp had anything to do with spreading the lie in the first place, though information both new and old undermines that easy assertion (which the paper has been doing for years). A 2011 Times article wrongly suggested the “Birther” theories only erupted after Obama became president, among conservatives, when in fact they first circulated during the Democratic primaries, stirred up by Obama's Democratic opponents.
Barbaro huffed and puffed in defense of President Obama.
It was not true in 2011, when Donald J. Trump mischievously began to question President Obama’s birthplace aloud in television interviews. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he said at the time.
It was not true in 2012, when he took to Twitter to declare that “an ‘extremely credible source’” had called his office to inform him that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.”
Yet it took Mr. Trump five years of dodging, winking and joking to surrender to reality, finally, on Friday, after a remarkable campaign of relentless deception that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president.
He nurtured the conspiracy like a poisonous flower, watering and feeding it with an ardor that still baffles and embarrasses many around him.
After noting that Trump finally “gave up the lie” at a press conference Friday, but “Surrounded by, and in many ways shielded by, decorated veterans in his new Washington hotel, he could not resist indulging in another falsehood -- that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, had started the so-called birther movement. She did not.
Actually, the birther movement did originate among Hillary Clinton supporters during the 2008 Democratic primary, a fact the Times has consistently, willfully ignored for years in its coverage.
Also not mentioned so far by the Times: an assertion by journalist James Asher on Twitter late Thursday night that loyal Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal had personally suggested to him that Obama had actually been born in Kenya and strongly urged him to investigate. Recall that this is the same Blumenthal that Hillary Clinton wanted in her State Department, but Obama nixed the idea (perhaps understandably). Still, Clinton used Blumenthal as an unofficial adviser during her time running the State Department, even sending him classified information.
As McClatchy reported Friday night:
Meanwhile, former McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher tweeted Friday that Blumenthal had “told me in person” that Obama was born in Kenya.
“During the 2008 Democratic primary, Sid Blumenthal visited the Washington Bureau of McClatchy Co.,” Asher said in an email Friday to McClatchy, noting that he was at the time the investigative editor and in charge of Africa coverage.
“During that meeting, Mr. Blumenthal and I met together in my office and he strongly urged me to investigate the exact place of President Obama’s birth, which he suggested was in Kenya. We assigned a reporter to go to Kenya, and that reporter determined that the allegation was false.
Back to Saturday’s NYT, where Maggie Haberman and Alan Rappeport offered a related story that also categorically denied any Hillary-birther connection: “Trump Drops False ‘Birther’ Claim but Offers New One: Clinton Started It.”
Mr. Trump made no apology for and took no questions about what had amounted to a five-year-long smear of the nation’s first black president. Instead, he claimed, falsely, that questions about Mr. Obama’s citizenship were initially stirred by the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, in her unsuccessful primary contest against Mr. Obama in 2008.
Still, Mr. Trump’s brief remarks, tacked on to the end of a campaign appearance with military veterans at his new hotel in downtown Washington, represented a sharp reversal from a position he had publicly maintained, over howls of outrage from all but the far-right extreme of the political spectrum, since 2011.
Given his other racially incendiary statements, Mr. Trump’s aides privately say they fear he will be unable to shake free of charges that he is racist, a label that has stuck to him with deleterious effect, polls show.
But contrary to Mr. Trump’s assertion, neither Mrs. Clinton nor her campaign ever publicly questioned Mr. Obama’s citizenship or birthplace.
The birther issue brought Mr. Trump attention and vaulted him to the front of Republican primary polls in 2011 as he considered a White House bid. He claimed, without ever offering evidence, that he had hired investigators, and said they “cannot believe what they’re finding.”
Haberman and Rappeport concluded by indulging some oh-so-subtle bogus symbolism about the Trump campaign:
Mr. Trump took no questions after his remarks about Mr. Obama. As reporters shouted questions, he smiled and left the room.
Not long after, the structure holding up the curtain that had provided a backdrop for his remarks collapsed, sending American flags toppling to the ground. No one was hurt.