Politics

What Donald Trump has said through the years about where President Obama was born

Donald Trump stood before television cameras on Friday and acknowledged a well-known fact that he had spent years denying — “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

It will be up to voters to determine whether that one sentence can erase years of Trump’s lying about whether Obama was born an American citizen, a long history of the Republican nominee attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the country’s first black president.

Here’s a look at Trump’s history of spreading falsehoods about Obama’s origins.

President Obama's "certification of live birth"
President Obama's "certification of live birth"

2008: Obama first faces questions about his birthplace

With rumors percolating about whether Obama was born in the U.S. and thus eligible to serve as president — a movement that would be dubbed birtherism — his campaign released a certification of live birth to prove he was born in Hawaii in 1961. 

Spring 2011: Trump joins the movement

Three years later, Trump began pushing the issue in television interviews as he was considering whether to run for president in 2012.

“I have some real doubts,” Trump told the “Today” show. He claimed to have sent his own investigators to Hawaii, where Obama was born. "I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're finding."

Trump raised another falsehood in an interview with "Good Morning America," suggesting Obama was trying to conceal his religion by withholding his birth certificate. “Maybe it says he's a Muslim,” he said. Obama is Christian.

April 2011: Obama releases his long-form birth certificate

After weeks of Trump stirring the pot, the president called a White House news conference to release his long-form birth certificate. Obama called the issue a distraction pushed by “carnival barkers,” an implicit dig at Trump.

In response, Trump bragged about forcing Obama to release the document. He said he was "very proud” of himself and the birth certificate would have to be examined to ensure it was authentic.

Obama got the last word in this chapter.

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At the White House correspondents dinner, in front of high-ranking lawmakers, top journalists, powerful Washington insiders and Trump himself, Obama skewered him.

"Now he can get back to focusing on the issues that matter,” Obama said while the New York businessman sat in the audience, unsmiling. “Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened at Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?" 

2012: Trump presses birther issue during election

Trump’s campaign claimed in a statement on Thursday evening that he “brought closure” to the issue in 2011 when Obama released his birth certificate. But it’s clear that Trump didn’t consider the matter to be settled while Obama was running for reelection.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/232572505238433794

Trump even encouraged Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, to press the issue during a debate. In his tweet, Trump cites a promotional booklet for Obama’s autobiography that inaccurately says he was born outside the U.S.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/252850650784882688

2013: Trump keeps the falsehood alive

Trump continued to spread conspiracy theories about the birth certificate the year after Obama was reelected, suggesting the death of a Hawaiian official was somehow related to a cover-up of the president’s true origins. 

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/411247268763676673

In an interview with ABC News, Trump said the issue “made me very popular.” Pressed to acknowledge that Obama was born in the United States, he said, “I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows.”

2015: Trump launches presidential campaign 

Trump announced in June 2015 that he would run for president as a Republican. A month later, he renewed his doubts about Obama’s birthplace. "I don't know. I really don't know," he said during a CNN interview.

Donald Trump poses with his family after announcing his candidacy for president in New York in June 2015.
Donald Trump poses with his family after announcing his candidacy for president in New York in June 2015. (Christopher Gregory / Getty Images)

Early 2016: Trump dodges birther questions

As he began to inch closer to the GOP nomination, Trump started to shy away from the issue. 

“Who cares right now? We’re talking about something else, OK?” he told CNN. “I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I will write a book.”

Summer 2016: Trump’s campaign starts to say he’s changed his belief

In recent weeks, top members of Trump’s campaign began trying to walk back the nominee’s statements. His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said he knew Obama was born a citizen. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said last week that Trump believes Obama was born in the U.S., and a statement from a senior communications aide late Thursday asserted the same.

But none of those comments came from Trump himself, who declined to answer questions on the topic as recently as Wednesday in an interview with the Washington Post.

September 2016: Trump acknowledges the truth about Obama

Five years after began doing television interviews about Obama’s birth certificate, Trump declared at his new hotel in Washington that the president was born in the United States. Trump did not apologize, nor did he explain why he changed his mind.

At the same time, he claimed it was Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent who ran against Obama in the 2008 primary, who originally raised questions about the president’s birth. There’s no evidence of that.

chris.megerian@latimes.com

Twitter: @chrismegerian

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