WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (SEPTEMBER 16, 2016) (RESTRICTED POOL) – Republican Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time on Friday (September 16) that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, reversing himself on a controversy that he helped launch but that has become a distraction to his White House bid.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” Trump, who has questioned Obama’s citizenship for years, said at a campaign event at his new hotel in downtown Washington. “Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”
Trump accused Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of starting the so-called “birther” controversy during the 2008 primary campaign against Obama, an accusation that independent fact-checking sites have rated as false.
The New York businessman led the birther movement aimed at Obama, who was born in Hawaii to an American mother and a Kenyan father.
The issue has not been a factor in the campaign for the Nov. 8 presidential election, but it resurfaced again in recent days, taking the focus of Trump’s campaign away from topics such as immigration, trade and the economy, which he has been using to hit Clinton.
Trump has recovered ground against Clinton in recent national opinion polls after revamping his campaign staff in August and taking steps to give a more polished performance on the campaign trail.
But the birther movement, which casts doubt over whether Obama is legally able to be president, incenses black Americans whose votes Trump has been trying to court.
Obama used the annual White House Correspondents dinner in 2011 to mock conspiracy theorists who allege that he was born abroad.
Obama greeted his audience as “my fellow Americans” and offered to show what he called his “birth video” in case of “any lingering questions” about his country of birth. He proceeded to present a clip from Disney’s animated movie “The Lion King” showing a baby lion cub in Africa, drawing cheers and applause from the audience.
Following the release of Obama’s birth certificate in 2011, Trump called on the president to release his college transcripts and passport applications.