An uncharacteristically subdued Donald Trump refused to say whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States on Tuesday night during his highly-anticipated first appearance alongside Stephen Colbert on CBS’ “The Late Show.”
Colbert pressed Trump to definitively say that Obama is a U.S. citizen, but Trump deflected the question (which the host described as a “big fat meatball” the candidate could “hit out of the park”), saying “I don’t talk about it anymore.”
Trump has been giving voice to erroneous rumors about the president’s origins for years. Trump’s past speculation about Obama’s place of birth has received renewed scrutiny after an attendee at a recent New Hampshire rally for the Republican candidate called the president a Muslim. Trump has been widely criticized for failing to condemn the man’s remarks. “This is the first time in my life that I have caused controversy by NOT saying something,” Trump tweeted after the incident. He added that doesn’t believe he is “morally obligated” to defend the president when he is attacked.
On Tuesday, the GOP front-runner gently absorbed Colbert’s mocking questions and assertions. Calling him a “ten billion dollar mouth,” the “Late Show” host had Trump sign a copy of his book “The Art of the Deal” for Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz (his second guest), tried to get him to apologize to anyone he’s ever offended (the candidate wouldn’t), and even engaged him in role-playing as a fictional president of Mexico negotiating payment for the massive border wall the candidate is proposing.
“We have to have a wall,” Trump insisted amid what appeared to be facetious cheers from the audience. “In that wall we’re going to have a wonderful, big fat door … a beautiful door where people can come into the country but they have to come in legally,” he added.
In what was a somewhat less tense encounter than Colbert’s previous night sit-down with Trump’s GOP rival Sen. Ted Cruz (who the real estate mogul praised as a “good man”), the host acknowledged playing the role an “over-the-top conservative” but “not as long as you did.”
Colbert joked earlier in the night that he could now tell his grandchildren someday that he interviewed “the last president of the United States.”
The interview concluded with a game where Colbert prompted Trump to guess whether a quote came from him or the host’s faux conservative alter ego from his former Comedy Central series “The Colbert Report”. Trump accurately attributed nearly every line, except for the last one, which wound up being a remark made by an infamous criminal, Charles Manson.