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Donald Trump’s campaign insists he’s not a birther anymore

Trump first put on his "birther" hat in March 2011, dutifully courted by both daytime and primetime media.

by Brendan James
Sep 16 2016, 2:00pm

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the Economic Club of New York, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Republican nominee Donald Trump's campaign on Thursday ventured where the candidate won't, and graciously declared President Barack Obama a natural-born American citizen.

"Having successfully obtained President Obama's birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States," said Trump media advisor Jason Miller. Trump did, in fact, lead a public campaign of skeptics that eventually pressured the White House to release the president's birth certificate on April 27, 2011.

But the entire statement was put out because Trump himself refused to admit earlier this month that the president was definitely born in the country, rather than, as he once speculated, Kenya. He signaled his doubts on local TV stations and an interview with the Washington Post, in which he said, "I'll answer that question at the right time. I just don't want to answer it yet."

Trump first put on his "birther" hat in March 2011, dutifully courted by both daytime and primetime media.

"Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?" he said on ABC's "The View." "There's something on that birth certificate he doesn't like."

"He could've been born in Kenya, gone over to the United States," he said on CNN.

"I'm starting to think that he was not born here," he said on NBC's "Today."

"I want to see his birth certificate," he said Fox News's "On the Record."

Once the White House caved, he still wouldn't have it, claiming the document was a forgery.

"Was it a birth certificate? You tell me," he said to ABC's Jonathan Karl in 2013. Some people say that was not his birth certificate. I'm saying I don't know. Nobody knows. And you don't know either, Jonathan."

The Clinton campaign didn't find the campaign statement sufficient, and want to hear it from Trump's mouth. "Trump needs to say it himself. On camera. And admit he was wrong for trying to delegitimize the country's first African American President," Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted.

Other figures, such as Clinton's onetime challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, rolled their eyes.

"Well, I'm just overwhelmed with emotion," Sanders quipped. "Look, this is pathetic, and this goes to the root of what Trump's campaign is talking about ... It's about bigotry."

Trump surrogates and staff, from campaign chair Kellyanne Conway to friend and ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, have insisted in recent days that Trump accepted Obama's origin story long ago.

The campaign statement by Miller on Thursday explicitly labeled Clinton herself as the original birther: "Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised."

While it's true the 2008 Clinton campaign was reportedly responsible for circulating a photo of then-Sen. Obama in "Islamic garb" while on a visit to Kenya -- feeding into attacks and theory on Obama's religious faith and loyalty to America -- there's no evidence they explicitly started the rumor that he was not born in the country.

UPDATE 13:33pm Friday September 16, 2016: Donald Trump formally conceded President Barack Obama is a citizen at an appearance at his new Trump International Hotel in New York City on Friday. "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period," Trump said. "Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again."

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