Donald Trump’s claim Friday that Hillary Clinton and her 2008 campaign “started” the Obama birther controversy touched off a series of instant fact-checking from media outlets who branded the claim “false” – but it seems they may have jumped the gun.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it,” Trump said in Washington, D.C. Friday, referring to theories President Obama was not born in the United States. “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.”
Media outlets immediately branded his claim about Hillary Clinton's involvement as an outright falsehood.
“Trump admits Obama born in U.S. but falsely blames Clinton for starting rumors,” declared The Washington Post.
“Trump drops claim but falsely accuses Clinton of starting it,” said The New York Times.
However, that assertion was itself cast into doubt when former McClatchy D.C. Bureau Chief James Asher tweeted that long-time Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal had encouraged him to investigate the rumor that Obama was not born in America.
His version of events raises questions about the Clinton campaign’s denials that it had anything to do with the controversy, but media outlets didn’t suggest any gray area.
Clinton 2008 campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle seemed to muddy the waters even further when, in denying that there was a connection, admitted that there was an Iowa volunteer who forwarded an email promoting the conspiracy.
“There was a volunteer coordinator, I believe in late 2007, I think in December, one of our volunteer coordinators in one of the counties in Iowa. I don't recall whether they were an actual paid staffer, but they did forward an e-mail that promoted the conspiracy,” she said on CNN, adding that Clinton herself made the decision to fire the person “immediately.”
Trump’s campaign immediately jumped on the Doyle interview, saying it vindicated Trump.
“With Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager admitting on national television and on Twitter that they promoted the rumors surrounding now-President Obama’s heritage, Mr. Trump has been fully vindicated,” spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement.
“Not only was a Clinton campaign worker blamed and fired over the activity, we have now been informed that Secretary Clinton was aware of what was going on, with Clinton’s campaign manager even apologizing to Obama’s campaign manager,” he said.
Clinton meanwhile, continued to blast Trump for his involvement in the controversy, tweeting: President Obama’s successor cannot and will not be the man who led the racist birther movement. Period.