Former President Barack Obama's place of birth is reportedly still being called into question by President Donald Trump, despite the latter having publicly admitted that he now believes Obama was born in the United States (Obama, indeed, was born in Hawaii in 1961). On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that, nonetheless, in private conversations, Trump is supposedly still expressing doubts about Obama's birthplace, reviving old (and false) claims that the 44th president was born in Kenya.
Trump has been erroneously questioning Obama's place of birth since 2011, repeatedly claiming on television and via social media that Obama was not born in the United States. Even after Obama released his long form birth certificate in 2011, Trump continued to question its legitimacy. It was not until 2016 — five years later — that Trump finally publicly admitted that Obama was born in the U.S., saying at a campaign appearance that, "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period."
Now, the New York Times is claiming that, as president, Trump is reportedly once again reviving his "birther" claims. The paper noted that a United States senator (who asked not to be named) relayed that he had heard the president once again discuss his doubts about Obama's nationality, saying that he [Trump] "has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States."
The Times also noted that Trump's reported private revitalization of his birther claims appears to be part of a pattern of questioning already-established facts, particularly those which he finds unfavorable. The Times cited Trump's recent questioning of the authenticity of the Access Hollywood tape, in which he makes degrading comments about women and seemingly admits to sexual assault, as another example of this re-entry into factual misrepresentation.
The Times noted that, since he was elected, Trump has repeatedly suggested in private conversations that the tape is not real, supposedly saying to one senator that “We don’t think that was my voice." However, during his campaign, Trump acknowledged that the voice on the tape was indeed his and apologized for the incident, saying, “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize."
When the Times reached out to the White House about Trump's reported private comments about the authenticity of the tapes, it refused to comment and directed the paper to statement made by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday: "He’s made his position on that clear at that time, as have the American people in his support of him."
In an interview with the Times for the same article, Senator Jeff Flake, who is retiring at the end of his term, warned of the dangers that Trump's distortion of facts poses for the United States and lambasted Trump for perpetuating falsehoods:
It’s dangerous to democracy; you’ve got to have shared facts ... And on so many of these, there’s empirical evidence that says no: You didn’t win the popular vote, there weren’t more people at your inauguration than ever, that was your voice on that tape, you admitted it before.
For his part, former President Barack Obama has not commented on the Times' revelation that Trump is reportedly privately revitalizing birther claims. However, during campaign season in 2016, the 44th president condemned Trump for spending time focusing on his birthplace and implied that most Americans understood that it was a non-issue. As Obama noted, “I was pretty confident about where I was born. I think most people were as well. My hope would be the presidential elect, election reflects more serious issues than that.”
Time will tell whether Trump revitalizes his birther claims and/or his reported misgivings about the authenticity of the Access Hollywood tape in public. However, doing so would certainly not be without consequence, as it would represent a president perpetuating the notion that facts are somehow not indisputable truths.