Donald Trump squirmed at Monday’s presidential debate when pressed on why he continued to push birther claims against President Obama, even after Obama’s birth certificate was released in 2011.
“We’re talking about racial healing in this segment. What do you say to Americans?” moderator Lester Holt asked.
“He should have produced it a long time before. I say nothing,” Trump said.
When the topic was first brought up, Trump blamed Sydney Blumenthal — a Clinton ally — for pushing the idea to a McClatchy journalist who says they discussed it. (The McClatchy journalist has been able to produce an email from Blumenthal suggesting he send a reporter to Kenya to explore Obama’s connections there, but his birth was not brought up.)
He also brought up Patti Doyle, Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008. (Doyle has said that an unpaid staffer forwarded an email raising the birth issue, but that staffer was soon after fired for it).
Trump went on to say that he “developed very, very good relationships over the last little while with the African-American community.”
“I feel that they really wanted me to come to that conclusion, and I think I did a great job and a great service not only for the country, but even for the president in getting him to produce his birth certificate,” Trump said.
Given a chance to respond, Clinton went hard against Trump for starting his political career on the basis of “this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen.”
“He persisted year after year because some of his supporters, people that he was trying to bring into his fold apparently believed it or wanted to believe it,” she said.
She then turned toward Trump’s business past and referenced Department of Justice lawsuit brought up against his family’s real estate developments for racial discrimination.
“So he has a long record of engaging in racist behavior, and the birther lie was a very hurtful one,” Clinton said.
She also praised President Obama, who she described as a “man of great dignity,” for how he responded to Trump’s birther campaign.
“When they go low, we go high,” Clinton said, referencing a line in Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention. “And Barack Obama went high despite Donald Trump’s best efforts to bring him down. “