As the whole cable-news-watching universe awaited Donald Trump’s birther-oriented announcement at his eponymous Washington hotel, Fox News got Bill O’Reilly on the phone, the better to provide some airtime-filling analysis. Ever eager to grab as much credit as he can, O’Reilly said that “this round” of the birther issue originated on his show last week (Sept. 6), when he asked Trump about it:
BILL O’REILLY: Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African Americans?
DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t even talk about it anymore Bill because I don’t bother talking about it.
O’REILLY: Yea I know, but it’s there, it’s on the record.
TRUMP: I guess with maybe some, I don’t know, I really don’t know why, you’re the first one who brought that up in a while. I don’t think so. Look, I went to Detroit was like a love-fest. It had just a great time.
The Republican presidential nominee’s history with birtherism is deep: Not only did he begin raising concerns about the issue in early 2011, but he also continued to do so after pressure from him and others prompted President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate in April 2011. Here’s a tweet:
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012
There are other such examples, too. Once this man says something, he hates to abandon it, no matter how corrupt it is. And so last year, Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Obama’s birthplace: “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Despite all that history, O’Reilly posited that the task before Trump isn’t too tall. “It’s an easy play. I mean, all he has to do is say, I had suspicions. I checked it out. I had suspicions, there was too much fog around it, but now I’ve come to the conclusion that the president was born in the USA, because he was,” said O’Reilly.
Sure, just erase years of innuendo-based racism with a single sentence.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum quizzed O’Reilly on how Trump has handled birtherism. She noted that in an earlier interview, Trump wouldn’t disclose what he was planning to say at the event today. O’Reilly chalked that up to Trump’s nature: “That’s what a showman does — he gets as many eyeballs on him as possible.” Okay, countered MacCallaum, but is that a smart way to play it all?
O’Reilly: “I wouldn’t do it this way, but I would have put it to bed a long time ago…You know, look — you can’t second-guess the strategy that has him tied with Hillary Clinton, who should be ahead by 15 points. So I’m not going to do that.”
No, why would a guy with a widely watched cable-news program second-guess a candidate who has strewn the American political landscape with lies, racist proposals and utter nonsense? Hey, it works!
Full disclosure: Bill O’Reilly has been friends with Trump for decades.