On Friday, both NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning blasted Donald Trump for refusing to respond to a question about whether President Obama was born in the United States and “fact-checked” his assertion that Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign actually first pushed the conspiracy theory. On Today, correspondent Peter Alexander noted: “The Trump team issuing a reversal, saying, quote, ‘Mr. Trump believes President Obama was born in the United States’....And falsely accusing Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign of first raising the issue.”
On This Morning, correspondent Major Garrett similarly mentioned: “At a conservative political conference in 2015, Trump again questioned the President’s citizenship and falsely tried to pin the rumor on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign.”
Most likely both reporters picked up the “false” label from liberal source PolitiFact, which rated the claim to be untrue. However, the website’s own fact-check of the issue cited a Daily Beast report which detailed the prominent role a Clinton campaign volunteer played in push birtherism during the 2008 campaign.
In addition, a 2011 article in Politico also identified Clinton supporters as the origin of the attack:
Where did this idea come from? Who started it?...The answer lies in Democratic, not Republican politics, and in the bitter, exhausting spring of 2008. At the time, the Democratic presidential primary was slipping away from Hillary Clinton and some of her most passionate supporters grasped for something, anything that would deal a final reversal to Barack Obama.
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Authors Ben Smith and Byron Tau explained:
That theory first emerged in the spring of 2008, as Clinton supporters circulated an anonymous email questioning Obama’s citizenship.
“Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth,” asserted one chain email that surfaced on the urban legend site Snopes.com in April 2008.
Beyond the birther claims, Clinton campaign officials were forced to resign in 2008 for pushing other rumors about then-Senator Obama, including that he was a drug dealer and a Muslim. During a panel discussion in September of 2015, CNN’s politics executive editor Mark Preston informed viewers:
Here are the facts. Let's go back to the 2008 presidential race, there was bit or bad blood between the Clinton and Obama presidential campaigns. Clinton state co-chair in New Hampshire [Bill Shaheen] was forced to resign in December of 2007, because he suggested that Obama admission of drug use would be a major liability if he were to win the Democratic nomination. The co-chair, who also happens to be the husband of Senator Jeanne Shaheen, also often wondered if Obama had once sold drugs.
Prior to Shaheen's comments, a volunteer coordinator in Iowa had to step down from the Clinton campaign after the coordinator sent an e-mail saying Obama was a Muslim.
And then there was a photo of Obama in clothing worn by Muslims that appeared on the Drudge Report in February of 2008. That photo was attributed to Clinton campaign sources. The Clinton campaign denied being the source of the photograph and it was never determined that the campaign was the source of it.
Anchoring live MSNBC coverage in the 11 a.m. ET hour on Friday of a press conference in which Trump acknowledged Obama was born in the U.S., Peter Alexander seemed to change his tune from his Today show report earlier that morning:
And that alone wraps up Donald Trump's remarks, highly anticipated, about the issue of birtherism. In effect, trying to take credit for President Obama putting out his birth certificate, suggesting that this was something that was started by Hillary Clinton and her campaign in 2008. As a very quick fact check, let's be clear, neither Hillary Clinton nor her campaign began the issue of birtherism. It is fair to say that some of her die-hard supporters in 2008 at times made suggestions to that effect. But that, of course, ended in 2008.