With Donald Trump it is literally hard to keep up with the lies. As of this morning he’s saying he’s going to have a “big announcement today” about birtherism and that he can’t say what it is because he needs to “keep the suspense going.” Yesterday he doubled-down on birtherism, disputing his own campaign manager’s claim that he now believes Barack Obama was born in the United States.
A short time later his communications director put out a statement again insisting Trump does now believe President Obama was born in the United States and propagating a new series of lies about Hillary Clinton having started birtherism (Politifact: False) and then claiming that he did the country a service by compelling President Obama to release his long form birth certificate – which Trump continued for years after to claim was a forgery.
But here’s the key thing: whatever Trump says today hardly matters. Birtherism is a racist smear and a lie. And yet Trump has been repeating it for literally years. As recently as last night. If someone says for years that blacks have smaller brains and are only fit for menial labor or that Jews are parasites and greedy by nature and then finally says “Okay, maybe not, I’m not gonna say that anymore”, who cares? If such racist agitation is ever to be forgiven it’s only with a true recantation and apology and an explanation of why that person said and did such terrible things for so long. If you’re now apologizing, well, why did you say such a thing? You must have known it was wrong, right? Have you really had a change of heart? Or is this just convenient? If someone says, well, I just ran some new tests and I can now say the greedy thing isn’t true. So I know longer believe that and by the way, you’re welcome, Jews, I’m sure you appreciate my clearing that up. No one would take this as an apology or recantation but rather a new offense.
Birtherism isn’t just not true. It’s conscious and deliberate racist agitation. Trump’s been doing that for years. Indeed, Trump used birtherism as a tool to build up his reputation among white supremacists and his alt-right base. He’s never explained or recanted or apologized or been held to any account. Whatever he says today we’ll be closely watching to see how campaign surrogates, commentators and especially reporters treat what he says.