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Recidivism Watch: Trump repeats debunked claim that Clinton ‘started the birther controversy’

(Reuters/Mike Segar)

“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.”

— Donald Trump, news conference, Sept. 16, 2016

Let’s review this again: No, Clinton and her campaign did not start the “birther” controversy. We awarded Trump Four Pinocchios for this claim, and it has been debunked thoroughly over, and over, and over, and over again.

Trump in theory could blame the actions of some Clinton supporters during the 2008 primary or say the rumor has some Democratic roots. But there’s no evidence that she or her campaign questioned Obama’s birth certificate or his citizenship. Clinton’s 2008 campaign denounced isolated instances of Clinton’s staffers questioning whether Obama was Muslim.

Moreover, Trump did not “finish” the birther controversy. He was one of the most high-profile birthers during President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

It was our friends at — not Trump — who “finished” the birther controversy eight years ago. After looking at, holding, photographing and investigating Obama’s birth certificate, published an August 2008 article debunking “birther” claims, titled “Born in the U.S.A.: The truth about Obama’s birth certificate.”

Yet as recent as August 2015 — two months into his presidential campaign — Trump continued to raise questions about Obama’s citizenship. At the time, we gave Four Pinocchios to Trump for saying that Obama “spent $4 million in legal fees to make sure that nobody ever saw” his college and passport records, which would indicate his true citizenship.

[Update: James Asher, former D.C. bureau chief of McClatchy, tweeted on Sept. 16 that Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal had met with him to ask for an investigation into birther rumors in 2008. Asher told McClatchy that Blumenthal “strongly urged” him to “investigate the exact place of President Obama’s birth, which he suggested was in Kenya.” McClatchy assigned a reporter to go to Kenya, and the reporter found the allegation was false, Asher said.

We reached out to Asher, but he did not respond to our requests for further explanation. Blumenthal, declining to elaborate further, said in a statement to The Fact Checker: “This is false. Period. Donald Trump cannot distract from the fact that he is the one who embraced and promoted the birther lie, and bears the responsibility for it.”]

The Fact Checker Recidivism Watch tracks politicians who repeat claims that we have previously found to be incorrect or false. These posts are short summaries of previous findings, with links to the original fact-check. We welcome reader suggestions.

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