It’s gone largely overlooked in the presidential race, but Donald Trump’s first real foray into politics came during President Obama’s first term, when the New York Republican helped lead the “birther” brigade. Trump not only embraced the racist conspiracy theory, he became one of its key boosters, bragging about having sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to uncover damaging information. (He was lying; no investigators were dispatched.)
Since launching his presidential campaign, however, Trump has largely ignored what used to be his signature issue. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly broached the subject last night:
O’REILLY: Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African Americans?TRUMP: I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t even talk about it anymore, Bill…. I guess with, maybe some. I don’t know why. I really don’t know why. But I don’t think – very few people, you are the first one that’s brought that up in a while.
For the record, Trump fielded a question about this as recently as Monday – the day before this O’Reilly interview. When the candidate said no one has brought up this issue “in a while,” that clearly wasn’t true.
Nevertheless, note that Trump isn’t prepared to denounce his ridiculous embrace of a nonsensical conspiracy theory; he simply prefers not to “talk about it anymore.”
Trump could acknowledge he was wrong, or perhaps show some kind of contrition, but that’s clearly not his style. Instead, the Republican presidential nominee is left to say he has no idea why African-American voters might be bothered by Trump’s promotion of a racist conspiracy theory.
Meanwhile, Ben Carson, a Trump campaign surrogate, conceded yesterday it would be “a good idea” for the GOP nominee to apologize for aggressively pushing the birther garbage.
That’s extraordinarily unlikely to happen.
Remember, as we discussed last week, some national polling shows Trump running fourth among African-American voters in a race featuring two competitive candidates. If he wants to understand how he ended up in this position, coming to terms with his embrace of birtherism would probably be a good place to start.