Greg Nash/The Hill

Donald Trump on Friday declared that President Obama was born in the United States — but refused to take questions on the issue and blamed Democrat Hillary Clinton for starting the “birther” controversy.

Trump only spoke about Obama’s birthplace more than 20 minutes into an event at his new hotel in Washington, D.C.

{mosads}Cable news networks covered the event live, and broadcast 20 minutes of veterans who support Trump lauding his politics.

When Trump finally spoke about the issue his campaign had promoted, he was brief.

“Hillary Clinton in her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it,” Trump said. “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.” 

With that, Trump left over the shouts of reporters seeking to get him to answer questions.

The crowd sought to drown out the reporters by chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.”

On cable news, reporters and anchors ripped into the Republican presidential nominee for his handling of the event.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper said Trump had “rickrolled” the media, referring to an online joke in which viewers are promised one thing, and then click to see a video of the 1980s British singer Rick Astley.

Other reporters criticized Trump on television for pulling a con job on the event by not answering questions.

“We got played, again, by the Trump campaign, which is what they do,” CNN’s John King said on air. “He got a live event broadcast for some 20 minutes.”

Trump had been expected to take questions as he typically engages with the press in these types of settings. And Trump himself had telegraphed that he would address the birther issue after he refused to answer a question on Thursday about whether Obama was born in Hawaii.

Trump repeatedly questioned whether Obama was born in the United States in 2011, which eventually led the president to release a copy of his birth certificate.

At the 2011 White House correspondents’ dinner, Obama ridiculed Trump over the issue as the businessman sat in the audience.

In 2012, Trump tweeted that an “extremely credible source” reached out to tell him the president faked his birth certificate. The next year, he implied the death of a Hawaiian official could be part of a cover up. 

The issue simmered up to the surface on a few occasions during his White House bid. During a July 2015 interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Trump said he still did not know where Obama was born. 

Trump’s refusal to answer a question on Thursday gave it new life and forced his campaign to issue a statement that Obama was born in the United States.

Trump is now casting himself as the person who proved Obama was born in the U.S. while suggesting Clinton was behind asking the questions.

A leaked 2007 memo from a top Clinton aide noted Obama’s “lack of American roots,” but there is no record of Clinton or her campaign saying anything to publicly stoke speculation. The Trump campaign’s statementon Thursday night cited the memo. 

Obama himself weighed into the issue on Friday, saying he was “pretty confident” he was born in the United States and urging the candidates to move on to more important issues.

The talk of whether the first African-American president was really born in the United States has offended many black Americans, and the new controversy comes amid pained efforts by Trump to reach out to African American voters.

He is far behind Clinton in polls of blacks, and fell into an altercation this week with a black pastor in Detroit.

Chatting with reporters before Trump’s remarks, Republican National Committee chief strategist Sean Spicer wouldn’t say whether he thought the issue would become a distraction for the Trump campaign. 

Spicer added that Friday’s already-scheduled event would be a good venue to address the comments because he had a “captive audience.” 


Tags Barack Obama Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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