On Friday morning, the Republican nominee milked one last self-promotional opportunity out of the conspiracy theory that America’s first black president is not truly one of us. For more than five years, Donald Trump used racist rumors about Barack Obama’s origins to gain wall-to-wall news coverage, a rabid social-media following, a foothold in conservative politics, and, eventually, a major party’s presidential nomination.
But now, Trump would like to win over a few more African-American voters. And refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the 2008 election makes that task more difficult.
And, since Trump’s base is mostly too comfortable with authoritarianism to question anything he says, sticking to the whole “Obama is probably a Kenyan” thing has become more trouble than it’s worth.
Thus, after much hesitation, the GOP nominee finally revealed that he no longer believes Barack Obama produced a series of forged documents and false witnesses to hoodwink the American people into thinking he has a legitimate claim to the presidency.
But first, Trump baited the media into broadcasting an infomercial about his new hotel.
After Trump refused to express an opinion on Obama’s birthplace in an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday night, his campaign released a statement assuring the public that the mogul believes the president was born in the U.S. (The statement also suggested that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement, and that Trump had stopped questioning Obama’s birthplace after he produced his birth certificate in 2011. Which are lies.)
On Friday morning, however, Trump declined to say whether he agreed with his campaign’s statement, telling CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo that he would reveal his position in a “major statement” later that day — and until then, “We have to keep the suspense going.”
So, all the major cable news networks fixed their cameras on the brand-new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. And then the mogul used the free airtime to detail the virtues of his new establishment, before letting a series of veterans detail his own virtues as a leader. (One of those veterans happens to think there are real questions surrounding Obama’s eligibility for the Oval Office.)
After 20 minutes of advertisements for Trump’s patriotism and toughness, the Republican standard-bearer stepped back in front of the microphone, said “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it … President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”
Obama did not seem grateful for the gesture.