Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Politics

Fact-checking Donald Trump's claim Hillary Clinton started Obama birther movement

In acknowledging that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, "period," Donald Trump repeated a false attack Friday that it was Hillary Clinton who was behind the conspiracy theory.

"Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy," Trump told reporters at the tail end of a press event in Washington. "I finished it."

That's False. There is no evidence that Clinton or her 2008 campaign floated the theory, nor is it accurate for Trump to say he finished the controversy. While some Clinton supporters circulated the allegations in 2008, they had no ties to either the candidate or her staff.

What follows is the basis of the allegation, and its severe shortcomings.

2007 Clinton memo

The Trump campaign says a 2007 strategy memo from former Clinton aide Mark Penn is evidence Clinton was behind the birther movement. The memo, written ahead of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, suggested highlighting Obama's "lack of American roots."

News reports about Obama's cosmopolitan, multicultural upbringing "exposes a very strong weakness for him — his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited," Penn wrote.

Penn said the Clinton campaign could create a contrast by talking about Clinton being "born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century."

"Let's explicitly own 'American' in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn't," he continued. "Let's use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let's add flag symbols to backgrounds."

While Penn suggests Clinton "own 'American' in our programs," the memo never suggests questioning Obama's citizenship or birthplace. In fact, Penn writes, "We are never going to say anything about his background."

Furthermore, as the Atlantic and Politico reported in 2008, neither Clinton nor her campaign acted on Penn's advice.

The chain email

The other piece of "evidence" linking Clinton to birtherism are emails circulated by supporters of Clinton during the last days of the 2008 Democratic primary after Clinton suspended her campaign.

According to a Daily Telegraph article, Clinton supporters circulated the "birther" theory in an email as early as April 2008.

"Barack Obama's mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy," the email said, according to the Telegraph. "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."

The allegations gained momentum that month. Clinton conceded the race on June 7, and three days later a website called Pumaparty.com encouraged Clinton backers to support Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

The website promoted the theory with an email that read, "Obama May Be Illegal to Be Elected President," as Daily Beast editor John Avlon has documented.

According to Avlon, Linda Starr, a Clinton volunteer in Texas, was key to spreading the rumor. She connected with Philip Berger, an attorney and Clinton supporter, who sued to block Obama's nomination. The suit was thrown out.

In the case of the email, there is no evidence Clinton or her campaign played any part. No connection between Starr, Berger and the Clinton campaign ever emerged as much of the story started after Clinton already suspended her campaign.

Clinton dismissed the allegation she played a part in the birther movement in a 2015 interview with CNN's Don Lemon.

"That is — no. That is so ludicrous, Don. You know, honestly, I just believe that, first of all, it's totally untrue, and secondly, you know, the president and I have never had any kind of confrontation like that," Clinton said. "You know, I have been blamed for nearly everything, that was a new one to me."

And about that part Friday where Trump said, "I finished it."

In no credible sense is this true. Trump didn't "finish" fanning the flames of birther conspiracies once Obama released his long-form birth certificate in April 2011 — he kept tweeting about it for at least another 3½ years. And a core group of Americans hasn't "finished" expressing birther sentiments. As recently as a year ago, various polls have found that 13 percent of Americans supported the viewpoint.

Our ruling

Trump said, "Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy."

There is no evidence to support this. Clinton supporters circulated the rumor in the last days of the 2008 Democratic primary, after Clinton had conceded to Obama. But the record does not show Clinton or her campaign ever promoting the birther theory, let alone starting it.

We rate Trump's claim False.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com.

Comments
Hey kids, you really stink at this voting business

Hey kids, you really stink at this voting business

The public service announcement begins with an insult.This works on several levels for the audience of teenagers.It grabs their attention and makes them laugh. It also happens to be wickedly accurate, and it pretty much explains why Pasco Supervisor ...
Published: 09/25/18
You thought you knew these candidates? In House District 38, it's Tent Killer challengng Little Danny

You thought you knew these candidates? In House District 38, it's Tent Killer challengng Little Danny

Most everybody knew John David Hayes simply as “David’’ until 1982. The then-21-year-old skydiving enthusiast, however, made a bad landing on his 11th jump in Alberta, Canada, and soon everyone started calling him something else....
Published: 09/25/18
Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Russia probe, has offered to resign

Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Russia probe, has offered to resign

WASHINGTON - Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein has told White House officials he is willing to resign in the wake of revelations he once suggested secretly recording the president, but itís unclear if the resignation has been accepted, according...
Published: 09/24/18
Solar farm land price is $6.8 million, including $4.4 million to state Sen. Wilton Simpson

Solar farm land price is $6.8 million, including $4.4 million to state Sen. Wilton Simpson

Tampa Electric Co. has said its Mountain View Solar project near Dade City represented a $75 million investment in alternative energy. The investing began in earnest last week when the utility paid more than $6.8 million for 382 acres in the rural co...
Published: 09/24/18
US considers limit on green cards for immigrants on benefits

US considers limit on green cards for immigrants on benefits

SAN DIEGO — The Trump administration has proposed rules that could deny green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance.Federal law already requires those seeking green cards t...
Published: 09/23/18
Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to  testify at Kavanaugh hearing

Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to testify at Kavanaugh hearing

The woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers has committed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, her lawyers said Sunday. The lawyers said some details — including whe...
Published: 09/23/18

AP source: Kavanaugh, Ford agree to testify on Thursday

WASHINGTON ó Negotiators reached a tentative agreement Saturday for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear testimony Thursday from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault from decades ago, two...
Published: 09/22/18

Trump administration aims to sharply restrict new green cards for those on public aid

WASHINGTON ó Trump administration officials announced Saturday that immigrants who legally use public benefits like food assistance and Section 8 housing vouchers could be denied green cards under new rules aimed at keeping out people the administrat...
Published: 09/22/18
Dana Young, Janet Cruz spar over guns, schools, environment in crucial Senate race

Dana Young, Janet Cruz spar over guns, schools, environment in crucial Senate race

TAMPA ó During a showdown Friday in Floridaís most hotly contested state Senate race, Democratic challenger Janet Cruz launched fireworks at Dana Young over education funding, the environment and guns.Young, the Republican incumbent in District 18, r...
Published: 09/21/18
Drug bill canít undo damage

Drug bill canít undo damage

On Sept. 5, two months before Election Day where heís running for a seventh term, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis filed a bill to clarify a 2016 law he co-sponsored that made it nearly impossible for the Drug Enforcement Administration to intercept suspiciou...
Published: 09/20/18
Updated: 09/23/18