Donald Trump speaks at a town hall event in Rochester, N.H. on Sept. 17, 2015.
Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

Trump’s ‘birther’ crusade was a scam wrapped in a con

Updated
Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has developed a national persona based on some unfortunate pillars: racism and conspiracy theories. Indeed, while we don’t hear much about the subject anymore, the GOP candidate’s rise to political notoriety came from Trump’s temporary obsession with President Obama’s birthplace.
 
The New York Times reported over the weekend on Trump’s fleeting anti-Obama crusade in 2011, when the Republican met with prominent figures in the birther “movement” and did a series of interviews in which Trump questioned the president’s country of birth
 
As the Times report helped document, the GOP reality-show-personality-turned-conspiracy-theorist-turned-presidential-hopeful wasn’t exactly subtle. “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?” he asked on ABC’s “The View.” “I want to see his birth certificate,” he told Fox News’ “On the Record.” And on NBC’s “Today Show,” he declared, “I’m starting to think that [the president] was not born here.”
 
The ridiculous campaign helped Trump cultivate ties to racist activists on the right-wing fringe, which years later, helped boost his GOP presidential candidacy.
 
The New York Republican has since dropped the issue – there are apparently other racially charged fights to pick and conspiracy theories to promote – but the Times’ latest article added a detail I don’t remember seeing reported elsewhere.
Mr. Trump also said repeatedly that he had sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to unearth information about Mr. Obama’s birth records. “They cannot believe what they are finding,” Mr. Trump told ABC’s “The View.” […]
 
But for all of his fascination with the president’s birth certificate, Mr. Trump apparently never dispatched investigators or made much of an effort to find the documents.
 
Dr. Alvin Onaka, the Hawaii state registrar who handled queries about Mr. Obama, said recently through a spokeswoman that he had no evidence or recollection of Mr. Trump or any of his representatives ever requesting the records from the Hawaii State Department of Health.
Let’s not brush past this too quickly – because the New York Times’ report appears to offer proof that the way in which he pushed a bogus scam was itself a bogus scam.
 
Let’s revisit precisely what Trump said and did in 2011:
“I have people that have been studying [Obama’s origins] and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” the would-be presidential candidate told NBC’s “Today.”
 
“You have people now out there searching – I mean, in Hawaii?” asked host Meredith Vieira.
 
“Absolutely,” Trump replied. “And they cannot believe what they’re finding.”
He added at the time that the president may be responsible for pulling off “one of the greatest scams in the history of politics.”
 
The irony is rich.
 
But not only was Trump peddling racist garbage, he appears to have also been lying about his own efforts. While he told a national television audience that he’d “absolutely” dispatched investigators to Hawaii, and those investigators had turned up extraordinary evidence, the Times’ latest reporting suggests Trump made up the whole thing: the investigators and the findings existed solely in Trump’s mind.
 
I can appreciate why this seems like old news – even he doesn’t push this particular nonsense anymore – but the revelation from the weekend nevertheless sheds new light on the 2016 candidate. Trump’s willingness to peddle a racist conspiracy theory told us something important about his character, but his willingness to lie to his own supporters about his efforts adds insult to injury.
 
 
 

Birthers, Conspiracy Theories and Donald Trump

Trump's 'birther' crusade was a scam wrapped in a con

Updated