Why is the birther issue making a comeback?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," September 16, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.




TRUMP: -- 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.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: For five years, he has led the birther movement to de-legitimatize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.


SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: All right, let's talk with our panel today, the political happenings of the day: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Leslie Marshall, syndicated talk show host, Mercedes Schlapp, columnist for the Washington Times, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. All right, did you think we were done discussing this? President Obama's not running for another term, and yet it's back.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's a good thing the country doesn't have any pressing problems to deal with because we can spend our time on things like this rather than e entitlements and wars.

To me, this sort of sad, disappointing day kind of encapsulates the entire campaign in a way and captures, I think, the things that bother or the things that make each of these candidates unique. Hillary Clinton and her team, without question, helped push in the 2008 campaign push this notion that President Obama was an other, was foreign. There's the Mark Penn memo. We have this reporter, this Washington bureau chief --

BREAM: Let me just throw that up real quick because this is Twitter from James Asher who used to be the Washington bureau chief I think for McClatchy. And he in his tweet says, "#CNN says #Hillaryteam in 2008 never raised the birther issue. Sid Blumenthal," which we've learned a lot more about given the e-mail scandal, "longtime HRC buddy told me in person Obama born in Kenya." So Steve, just part of the reporting today.

HAYES: So there's no question that the Hillary team played a role in pushing the sense that Barack Obama was somehow other.

However, Donald Trump, it's ridiculous for him to pretend like he wasn't the main driving force of this. He did this for years. He did it for years after President Obama presented his birth certificate in 2011. He was doing it as recently as last year and interviews earlier this year.

But what makes this sorts of interesting is like case study of the campaign is Hillary Clinton is doing this in kind of a sneaky, dishonest way. She's launching this campaign quietly behind the scenes. And Trump is just owning it. Like he just runs out there and says, I'm a birther. I think this is crazy. I don't think the president was born here. This isn't a conspiracy theory. And it sort of captures what makes each of the candidates unique.

BREAM: Leslie, this was a little bit of a gift to the Hillary Clinton campaign because they've had a tough week with her health and all the other things, the deplorables, and different things over the last few days she's been dealing with. But how much does she like that this is back in the news and she can sit there and say basically he's a racist?

LESLIE MARSHALL, SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST: I think she likes it a lot because when you look at numbers -- and he's done well in numbers. And I think parts of that is not the "basket of deplorables" but rather the fact that she has just not been there. And this is even before the pneumonia. This was like out of sight, out of mind. And he has improved. And he's improved not just in states like Florida and Ohio, but he has also improved across the board and in some swing states with certain groups like African- Americans.

And I think that's exactly what we're seeing here. It's almost any time he looks, and one time recently he had as low as zero percent in the polls among African-Americans voters. And when he sees there's hope, and his campaign says, wait a minute, we're seeing when we have a nicer, more diplomatic, presidential, if you will, Donald Trump talking, we do better.

So listen, he doesn't believe the president wasn't born here. And everybody's saying we need to hear it from him. He gets out there and he says it. But the motivation is, look, if you were black, vote for me. That's what he's doing here. And then, you know what this reminds me of, Shannon, I have an eight and nine-year-old. And the "he started it, but I'm finishing it," this is what it really reminded me of, very childish. I know you're laughing. You have kids --

BREAM: I understand.

MARSHALL: But seriously. When you look at all the facts, fact check, politi-check, et cetera, although there was one e-mail within the Clinton campaign, the rest of all of the writings and Twitter and emails were not campaign workers but rather supporters, nothing came from her camp publicly. Nothing came from Hillary Clinton publicly.

BREAM: The manager had to fire one of the supporters --

MARSHALL: Right, that one individual and that one e-mail.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WASHINGTON TIMES: That really raises questions because of the fact that Mark Penn is the one that said maybe we need to fundamentally question whether he -- Obama is American. I mean, I think those are strong words coming from Mark, as well.

MARSHALL: But I don't think the allegation, accusation by Donald Trump that Hillary Clinton in her campaign started this is accurate at all. I think that goes on him and the others who jumped on the birther campaign.

SCHLAPP: Even "Politico" said that there were die hard Clinton supporters who were trying to --

MARSHALL: Supporter is not a campaign worker and it was not Hillary Clinton.

SCHLAPP: Mark Penn was part of the campaign.

MARSHALL: One person, fired. Hillary Clinton --

SCHLAPP: Mark Penn was not fired --

MARSHALL: Hillary Clinton never said publicly, and every time we see anything with reference to that, she thinks it's ridiculous.

BREAM: She may not have said it publicly. If those closest to her are saying to people like the Washington bureau chief of McClatchy, hey, by the way, he was born in Kenya. It's the planting of ideas and the planting of the conversation.

MARSHALL: By the advisers, absolutely.

BREAM: So is it time to close the door on this?

MARSHALL: Oh, absolutely.

BREAM: Is everybody ready to move on?

SCHLAPP: I hope we could close the door on this. I think it's unfortunate. Look, the door should have been closed 2011 when Obama came out and released his birth certificate. Fine, if they had legitimate concerns at the time and Donald Trump did I'm certain a number of Americans questioned whether he was an American citizen, White House came out, released the bitter certificate. This should have been a done deal.

And I think it's very important now for the Trump campaign. It's one of the reasons they need to stop this nonsense and move on, back to the policy discussion. It's where Donald Trump is strong right now. It's where he's starting to continue to win the support of American voters and why the momentum is shifting in his favor.

BREAM: Yes. The discipline has paid off for him for sure.

Now there was pushback today. He had this big event at the Trump hotel that opened here in D.C. He had a number of military, very distinguished guests and heroes on stage with him today. He had said that he was going to talk about the birther issue. That was suggested. And so as the media stood by, they had to listen to person after person after person, military -- you know, all of them praising him. Not everyone in the media was happy about that. Here's what Jake Tapper said about that.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: While we got Rick-rolled and played in terms of rolling the endorsements from those American heroes who came out to talk about Donald Trump and why they support him, Medal of Honor recipients and the like, what's largely going to be covered is these -- are these two sentences, one of which is completely untrue.


BREAM: There was quite the lead up, Charles. But listen, he's a showman. He scripted this definitely to his advantage.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The only things missing from that event were the Trump steaks.


BREAM: I think they were served right after for lunch.

KRAUTHAMMER: The kitchen and show all those other things.

Look, he has a way of attracting the press and making them jump. They jumped, and they came and they showed what he wanted them to show. But you know, when he says or when -- Mercedes says that this should have ended in 2011, well, the person who didn't end it in 2011 and who could have was Donald Trump. All he had to do was to say then what he says now. I don't think the information has changed. The politics have changed and he wants to get this behind him. But he has spoken about it and expressed his doubts continuously since 2011. So he's hardly innocent about the continuation of this story.

But I think they're smart. I'm sure this is Kellyanne Conway saying you've got to say the words, however much it hurts. You say it once, you add a period at the end. That supposed to mean I'm done talking about this. And I think he will stop talking about it and it will go away.

I think the reason he's done so well in the polls is because for about three weeks he's refrained from these distractions and interruptions. This was a recurrence of one. He ended it. And now he can continue his rehabilitation.

BREAM: We'll see how the trending in the polls if it continues, or if this is a blip. We'll find out.

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