NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) — After, Donald Trump said early Friday that he believed the president was indeed born in the United States.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” said Trump, who spent much of his time at the beginning of the event praising his “nice hotel.”
“Now we want to get back to making America great again,” he added.
He made the three-line statement at an event staged for veterans at his recently opened Washington, D.C. hotel, following weeks of declining to tell reporters that he believed President Obama was a U.S. citizen by birth.
Trump had teased the announcement Friday, telling Fox Business Network early in the morning that he had wanted to “keep the suspense going” on the so-called “birther” issue. And that he did. The statement was the last brief thing in a long preamble — Trump first lauded the opening of his hotel and several of the veterans present made speeches in support of Trump.
“I’m going to make a big announcement on it today,” he had told Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo on “Mornings with Maria” Friday morning, previewing a visit to his newly opened Washington, D.C. hotel, just blocks away from the White House.
“We know that Obama now — he was born in America, correct?” Bartiromo asked Trump.
“You watch my statement,” Trump responded. “I have to — we have to keep the suspense going, okay? So you watch.”
In that statement, Trump also repeated his false accusation that opponent Hillary Clinton was responsible for the birther controversy. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it,” he said, adding, “You know what I mean.”
During a Fox Business interview earlier Friday, Trump had also brought up his claim about Clinton.
“Hillary brought it up during the campaign,” Trump told Bartiromo. “It was 2008 and it was brought up to her fairly well, and she brought it up, and I was the one that was successful in getting him to release his birth certificate.”
That accusation by Trump has been consistently found to be false. He first suggested it at the CPAC conference in 2015: “Hillary Clinton wanted [Mr. Obama’s] birth certificate. Hillary is a birther,” he said then, adding that she “was unable to get [Mr. Obama’s birth certificate].”
Factcheck.org has investigated this claim and wrote in Nov. 2008 that the claim that Mr. Obama had not been born in Hawaii had been circulated in late spring of that year by “diehard Hillary Clinton supporters,” as the Democratic nomination slipped away from Clinton. The journalists who reported the story, Byron Tau and Ben Smith, told Factcheck.org that the rumor came from Clinton’s supporters, and they had not ever found a link to her campaign. Clinton’s 2008 campaign also denied that it had anything to do with the rumor.
Just before Trump’s announcement at his Washington hotel, Clinton spoke to a group of African-American women in the nation’s capital, slamming her rival once more for his “birther” comments and cautioning Americans against believing Trump has changed his mind, no matter what he said Friday.
“For five years he has led the ‘birther’ movement to delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history,” Clinton said at the Black Women’s Agenda Symposium. “Barack Obama was born in America plain and simple and Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology. So my friends, there is no new Donald Trump. There never will be.”
The comments from Trump Friday came less than a day after Trumpthat he believed Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii.
“I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump told the Post Thursday. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”
Later that day, Trump’s campaign tried to neutralize the ongoing controversy with a statement from a senior aide claiming “Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”
Mr. Obama, for his part, has stayed largely out of the birther debate. But responding to reporters’ questions about the issue, the president waded in Friday, as Trump readied his announcement in Washington.
“I was pretty confident about where I was born. I think most people were as well,” the president said in the Oval Office, registering his “shock” that such a topic would be raised when there were other important policy questions to address. “My hope would be that the presidential election reflects more serious issues.”