The Slatest

Clinton on Trump’s Birtherism: “A Racist Lie”

Debate moderator Lester Holt, bless his heart, decided to ask Donald Trump about birtherism, i.e., Trump’s chief contribution to American political discourse from the day he was born through early 2015. It did not go especially well.

Trump responded to the question with the laughable explanation his campaign decided to go with in the end: that it was Hillary Clinton who started the rumor, that they both spent years ardently searching for President Obama’s birth certificate, and only he could successfully pressure its release. This is a lie because a) Hillary Clinton did not start birtherism, and b) there was no mainstream interest in getting Obama to produce the long-form birth certificate, because it was a ridiculous fringe theory.


Clinton responded to this “racist lie”:

He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it, but he persisted. He persisted year after year, because some of his supporters, people that he was trying to bring into his fold, apparently believed it or wanted to believe it. But remember, Donald started his career back in 1973, being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination. Because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans, and he made sure that the people who worked for him understood that was the policy. He actually was sued twice by the Justice Department. So he has a long record of engaging in racist behavior. And the birther lie was a very hurtful one. And you know, Barack Obama is a man of great dignity. And I could tell how much it bothered him and annoyed him that this was being touted and used against him, but I like to remember what Michelle Obama said in her amazing speech at our Democratic National Convention: “When they go low, we go high.” And Barack Obama went high. Despite Donald Trump’s best efforts to bring him down.

Clinton did not, for whatever reason, directly address the spin that it was she and her top-level 2008 staffers who were the genesis of this idea.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.