After five years of challenging, questioning, and stoking conspiracy theories about President Obama's birthplace, Donald Trump admitted Obama was born in the U.S. "President Obama was born in the United States, period," Trump said during a press conference. He didn't apologize, to be clear ― Trump has essentially never apologized for anything he's said or done during this campaign season, nor has he ever expressed so much as a regret about fueling the birther conspiracy theories, which have been widely condemned as racist.
No, rather than grapple seriously with his role in mainstreaming this multiply-debunked conspiracy theory, he tried to advance another one ― he insisted that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton actually started birtherism in her 2008 campaign, a claim his surrogates have been making, with no credible evidence, for weeks. All in all, it didn't sound anything like contrition, so much as a painstakingly extracted admission, followed by a prickly insistence that it ought to be good enough, and everyone should just move alone now.
If you don't quite believe it, here's what it looked and sounded like ― for all pundits and political observers who sometimes criticize Clinton for seeming "inauthentic," you're not likely to see someone look less natural and happy to say something than Trump does here.
Hillary Clinton, and her campaign of 2008, started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean? President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.
For the record, Clinton's 2008 campaign did not start the birther movement. This is a claim Trump and his surrogates have advanced in recent weeks, ostensibly to obfuscate the reality of the situation: that Trump launched his entire political brand on the strength of questioning Obama's legitimacy, tethering himself to a movement that reasoned that a black man with an African name couldn't possibly be a natural-born citizen and a legitimate president.
Throughout 2011, Trump harangued Obama to release his long-form birth certificate, even though he'd already released proof of his birth in 2008, amid a slew of other tawdry insinuations ― he also demanded to see Obama's college transcripts, and claimed that nobody who went to school with him remembered him. He also claimed to have dispatched private investigators to Hawaii to dig up information on the issue, and claimed that they "cannot believe what they are finding." To this day, there's no public evidence Trump's private investigators even existed.
His birtherism also did not, as he and his campaign have suggested, end back in 2011. To the contrary, he further questioned Obama's long-form certificate during the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2014, and his Twitter feed is not short on examples of his wild-eyed conspiracy-mongering. As former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett highlighted on Twitter, Trump in 2013 insinuated that Hawaii state health director Loretta Fuddy, who died in a plane crash, had been... well, look for yourself.
Trump has also made it very clear that he thinks the long-form birth certificate Obama ultimately released was a fake ― he tweeted out a conspiracy theory article arguing as much in 2012. And since Obama hasn't released any more documents or information since then, it's fair to ask: hey Donald, what changed? How'd we get from "fake" to "Hillary did it" to "he was born in Hawaii and Hillary did it?"
Here's one from 2013, when Trump quote-tweeted a follower claiming that Obama's long-form certificate was a "computer generated forgery." Pro-tip for politicians: if you're going to testily hand-wave away years of conspiracy theorizing, make sure to delete all your conspiracy tweets first!
It remains to be seen whether the media at-large will accept this staggeringly thin reversal, or whether Trump's history of birtherism will continue to get the public airing it deserves. This much is clear, however ― Trump's commitment to never, ever giving a straight or earnest apology seems like his most glaring, guiding principle.