That interpretation apparently stemmed from a short clip of the interview between the President and actress Gina Rodriguez that was played across a few Fox Business shows in recent days, in which Rodriquez asked him an awkwardly worded question about immigration officials using voters' information in order to track down non-citizen family members.
Initially, Rodriguez asks Obama about “Millennials, DREAMers, undocumented citizens—and I call them 'citizens' ’cause they contribute to this country'” who she says are fearful of voting.
“If I vote, will immigration know where I live? Will they come for my family and deport us?” she asks.
“Not true,” Obama replies, specifying that “when you vote, you are a citizen yourself.”
“There is not a situation where the voting rolls somehow are transferred over and people start investigating, et cetera,” he continued. “The sanctity of the vote is strictly confidential in terms of who you voted for. If you have a family member who maybe is undocumented, then you have an even greater reason to vote.”
Fox Business host Neil Cavuto played a clip of the interview that cut off after Obama said "strictly confidential." He then turned to former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), a prominent Donald Trump surrogate, who said she thought Obama’s comments were “above the believability line.”
“He should have absolutely set her straight that if you are not a citizen you don’t get to vote, and just because you’re in our country undocumented, you’re not a citizen," Brewer said Saturday. "They want to blur the lines. They want to make it okay.”
“It sounded to me like he was encouraging it,” she continued.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) issued a statement Sunday in which he said he was “shocked” the President “failed to strongly and immediately object to a statement by an interviewer that unlawful immigrants can and should vote in U.S. elections.”
"The President must immediately issue a statement to make crystal clear that only citizens of the United States have the right to vote, and that any noncitizen who votes, and anyone who assists noncitizens to vote, does so illegally and is subject to prosecution," the statement continued. "The failure to clarify this statement will only add further credibility to the public’s concerns about the integrity of this election.”
On Monday morning, Fox Business host Stuart Varney introduced a clip of the interview by implying that the President appeared "to encourage illegals to vote, and promises no repercussions if they do." The clip Varney played edited out all of Obama's response aside from the lines "not true" and "the sanctity of the vote is strictly confidential."
Spokespeople for Sessions and Fox News didn't immediately respond Monday afternoon to TPM's requests for comment.
Conservative online news outlets pounced on the edited clips played on Fox News as well.
“Barack Obama openly called on illegal aliens to vote in Tuesday’s election. This whole administration is lawless!” wrote Jim Hoft, who runs The Gateway Pundit.
“In a jaw-dropping move, lame duck Barack appeared to tell illegal aliens they can vote, citing the “sanctity of the vote,” wrote Samantha Change of BizPacReview.
“VIDEO: OBAMA 'ENCOURAGES ILLEGALS TO VOTE’,” read a headline at wnd.com.
Donald Trump has amplified conspiracy theories that the Obama administration is relying on undocumented immigrants to commit voter fraud in order to boost Hillary Clinton. At the end of the first presidential debate, Trump responded to a question about whether he would accept the outcome of the election by instead alleging that hundreds of people had mistakenly become citizens due to “corruption.”
"The other day, we were deporting 800 people, and perhaps they passed the wrong button--they pressed the wrong button--or perhaps, worse than that, it was corruption," Trump said at the time. "But these people we were going to deport for good reason ended up becoming citizens. Ended up becoming citizens. And it was 800, and now it turns out it might be 1800, and they don't even know."