CNN’s Don Lemon asked Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton during a radio interview Wednesday morning whether she started “birther” rumors about President Barack Obama during their bitter 2008 election battle.
Speculation about Clinton’s role in the debunked conspiracy theory began anew after an incident involving Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Thursday at a town hall event in New Hampshire. Trump was roundly criticized for failing to correct a supporter who said Obama was a Muslim and not an American.
Trump attributed the start of the “birther” movement to Clinton Tuesday night on Twitter:
Just remember, the birther movement was started by Hillary Clinton in 2008. She was all in!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2015
In an interview on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” Lemon asked Clinton whether she started the rumors and whether Obama confronted her about them.
“People have been saying on-air here, and I’ve been reporting it on CNN and I’ve been reporting it here, that you were the person behind the whole birther thing and that the senator at the time, the President-elect, actually confronted you about that. Do you care to respond?” Lemon asked, according to audio posted by Mediaite. “Did you or your campaign start the whole birther thing? And did you have a confrontation with the President?”
“That is so—no,” Clinton responded. “That is so ludicrous, Don. You know, honestly, I just believe that—first of all, it’s totally untrue. Secondly, the President and I have never had any kind of confrontation like that.”
“This is such a bad example of what’s wrong with instantaneous reactions and Americans getting all worked up and people feeding prejudice and paranoia, like Donald Trump,” she continued. “Obviously all of us have to stand against it. I have been blamed for nearly everything. That was a new one to me.”
A panel on MSNBC’s Morning Joe had tackled the issue Monday morning and concluded that Clinton was the source of the rumors. Co-host Joe Scarborough suggested it was hypocritical for Clinton to criticize Republican presidential candidates for their approach to birthers.
“It was rich this weekend—I guess we have to get our digs in on Hillary Clinton here because I thought we were going to get through a segment without talking about her—but for Hillary Clinton to come out and criticize anybody for spreading the rumors about Barack Obama when it all started with her and her campaign passing things around in the Democratic primary. Rich.”
“We’re just telling the truth, sorry,” co-host Mika Brzezinski added.
Panelist Harold Ford Jr. challenged whether Scarborough and Brzezinski had any evidence to back that theory up, prompting the co-hosts to call on 2008 campaign chronicler John Heilemann, now co-editor-in-chief of Bloomberg Politics, to settle the dispute.
“It was the case,” Heilemann said. “I’m affirming the Scarborough-Brzezinski assertion.”
Scarborough and Brzezinski referenced a CBS “60 Minutes” clip from 2008 in which Clinton was asked whether she believed then-Sen. Obama was a Muslim. Many journalists and viewers at the time believed the tail end of Clinton’s response left the door open to her believing that Obama could indeed be a Muslim.
“You don’t believe that Senator Obama’s a Muslim?” Steve Kroft asked Clinton.
“Of course not,” she responded. “I mean, that’s, you know, there is no basis for that. I take him on the basis of what he says. There isn’t any reason to doubt that.”
“You said you’d take Senator Obama at his word that he’s not a Muslim. You don’t believe that he’s a Muslim or are implying—?” Kroft presses.
“No,” Clinton said. “No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know.”
Watch the “60 Minutes” clip below:
This post has been updated.