New Jersey Governor Chris Christie accompanies Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump off the stage after a press conference on March 1, 2016 in Palm Beach, Fla.
Photo by John Moore/Getty

Following birther reversal, Trump’s allies lie about his lie

Donald Trump surprised many on Friday, replacing one of his most notorious lies with a brand new one. The Republican, whose entire political persona was built on his racist conspiracy theory about President Obama’s birthplace, announced he no longer believes his own nonsense – which he now falsely blames on Hillary Clinton.

It takes a special kind of candidate to walk back one brazen lie by replacing it with another.

Perhaps thinking they no longer have a choice, Trump’s allies hit the Sunday shows yesterday, pretending that the newly manufactured fiction is actually fact. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway insisted yesterday – repeatedly and falsely – that the birther conspiracy theory “started with” the Clinton campaign. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who must know better, was equally eager to peddle the same nonsense.

But no one was quite as brazen in his dishonesty as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who told CNN’s Jake Tapper yesterday that the birther garbage has been “done” as an issue “for a long time.” The host reminded the viewing audience that Trump kept the conspiracy theory going for five years after President Obama made his long-form birth certificate available to the public. It led to an amazing exchange:
CHRISTIE: Jake, that’s just not true. It’s not true that he kept it up for five years.

TAPPER: Sure, he did.

CHRISTIE: It’s simply not true.

TAPPER: It is true.

CHRISTIE: It wasn’t like he was talking – no, Jake, it wasn’t like – it wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis until then.
To the extent that reality matters at all, Donald Trump was not only a birther ringleader in the years leading up to 2011, and he not only rejected the president’s birth certificate as a “fake” and a “fraud” in 2011, Trump also proceeded to push the same conspiracy theory in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Fact-checking the New Jersey governor’s claim yesterday, the Washington Post concluded, “This is such bogus spin that we have to wonder how Christie manages to say it with a straight face…. [C]learly Christie is either lying or he is so misinformed that he has no business appearing on television.”

In a way, Trump put his friends in an impossible position, sending them out to defend the indefensible, urging them to lie on his behalf. It’s not surprising that this didn’t go well.

But Christie, Conway, and Priebus didn’t have to agree. They had a choice and they chose to go on national television, repeating obvious falsehoods. In a normal year with normal candidates playing by normal rules, this would be the basis for a major, damaging controversy.