Orly Taitz, a dentist and lawyer who long ago surpassed Martin as the face of birtherism, took a similar position on Trump's reversal. "The media is attacking Trump on the birther issue and many conservatives and my supporters are attacking him from the other side on the same issue," she wrote on her blog. "My word to my supporters: let Trump win the election. There are only 8 weeks left. Now is not the time to talk about Obama, he is not running for president, Clinton is."
All day Friday, Taitz updated her blog as journalists called her and dutifully reported on the pass she was giving the Republican nominee.
With four months to go before President Obama leaves the White House, the movement to prove that he lied about his birth — by hiding his true paternity, by posing as a foreign student to get into college — had already petered out. Philip J. Berg, a Pennsylvania lawyer who filed the first high-profile lawsuits against Obama, quit his law practice to avoid being disbarred. Wiley Drake, a California pastor who amplified the coverage of the lawsuits, was focused on his fringe candidacy for president. Larry Klayman, the legal gadfly who had filed petitions for the president to be deported, was focused on uncovering the "truth" about Hillary Clinton's health. Jerome Corsi, the author of "Where's the Birth Certificate?," gruffly told a radio interviewer that he was "not getting into it" and "not weighing in."
Trump's fitful five-year quest to prove that something was amiss with the president's citizenship, something he admitted he was doing to curry conservative favor, ended with no apparent backlash from the right or the fringes. Breitbart, the conservative site that gave Trump's campaign its current chief executive, covered Trump's Friday news conference with a gleeful story about the media getting played. (For several hours, the story was illustrated with an unexplained photo of a gorilla.)
Four years earlier, in its Obama series titled "The Vetting," Breitbart had uncovered an old publisher's note that described a young author, Barack Obama, as "born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia." The site's editors were careful to say that the story was not that Obama may have been foreign, but that his persona had shifted over time. While some members of the birther movement maintained a desire to force the president from office, their greatest relevance really came in the weeks before and after the 2008 election, when they thought they'd found a loophole to save the country from Obama. For the seven years following, they were focused more on what's now termed "trolling" -- getting under the skin of liberals.
Trump's news conference did not end the movement so much as it asked for a pivot. In his crisp statement, Trump insisted that "Hillary and her campaign" were the authors of birtherism, then dropped the topic with no questions. This is untrue — Martin was raising questions about Obama's birth certificate in 2004. Since then, even some conservatives who winced at the birthers have latched onto the story that Clinton hanger-on Sidney Blumenthal, who for a while in 2008 was an unpaid "senior adviser" to the campaign, told an editor at McClatchy to pursue the rumor that Obama was born in Kenya.
Blumenthal has denied this. Given when the meeting took place, it's impossible to credit "the Clinton campaign" with a rumor that had boiled online for years. (Previously, the fact that Phil Berg had supported Clinton in the 2008 primary was cited as evidence that Clintonworld started the rumor.) But most Trump's defenders are on board for the new story line — that birtherism does not matter anymore, and that to the extent it does, it is Clinton's fault.
"Hillary was the first birther," Corsi insisted Friday.
"I at no time said Obama was born anywhere but Hawaii," said Martin, noting that he was more interested in whether the Communist writer Frank Marshall Davis was the president's real father.
Taitz, who Martin dismissed as a "crazy," was the only prominent birther still raising questions. In a rundown of the interviews she'd done on Friday, Taitz repeated the eight questions she had about the fraud the president might have committed.
"When media is corrupt, when the Department of Justice is corrupt, the country becomes a banana republic or even worse, a tyranny," she wrote. "For now, let’s concentrate on the election, let’s help Trump get elected, we’ll renew this conversation later."