One thing that has undoubtedly made Donald Trump popular with the racist base of the GOP is his participation in the “birtherism” nonsense surrounding President Obama. Now he has dropped the rhetoric and doesn’t bring it up when he criticizes the president. But he still hasn’t explicitly said that yes, Barack Obama is a natural born citizen who was legitimately elected President of the United States. However, that hasn’t stopped his surrogates from attempting to rewrite history and claim that Trump has disavowed his “birther” past.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined host Chris Matthews on his MSNBC show “Hardball” on September 8, where he was challenged on his claim that Trump has said he now believes Obama is an American citizen. Matthews was his old feisty, confrontational self during the interview, and it was good to hear him not let Giuliani get away with his revisionism on Trump’s record.
Matthews starts the segment by noting that recently, both vice presidential candidate Mike Pence and former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson have said they believe President Obama is an American citizen and that he was legitimately elected. He asks Giuliani if he confirms that fact. Giuliani replies,
I confirm that, and Donald Trump now confirms that.
Giuliani starts to launch into the popular GOP talking point that it was Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign that first raised the “birther” issue when Matthews cuts him off. “When did he do that?” he demands.
“He did that two years ago — three years ago,” Giuliani responds.
Then the former mayor comes back to the claim that all of this nonsense started with the Clinton campaign. In fact, as Politifact reported last year, one of the first questions raised about Obama’s citizenship came when a disgruntled Clinton supporter raised the issue in April 2008. But the person responsible for it was not an employee of the Clinton campaign.
Giuliani’s attempt to divert the conversation and turn it into an attack on Clinton backfires as Matthews demands that Giuliani back up what he is saying with actual facts — facts that he, of course, doesn’t have. After a brief back-and-forth about the claim that the Clinton campaign was the origin of “birtherism,” Matthews returns to the focus of the discussion. He says to the mayor,
I want to know whether your candidate believes he would succeed a legitimate president or not. Does he believe he would succeed a legitimate president?
Donald Trump believes — now — that he was born in the United States.
But he keeps coming back to the false claim that questions about the president’s birthplace started with Clinton. And Matthews isn’t interested. “When is he going to say that this president is legitimate?” he demands to know. “This is a fundamental question, Mr. Mayor. Is the President of the United States legitimate or not? If you believe it, why doesn’t your candidate state it?”
This goes on for another minute or so, and every time Matthews lands a verbal punch, Giuliani responds with his accusation about Clinton. Matthews decides to put the matter to rest by asking Giuliani if he will say, on behalf of Trump, that he was wrong in saying President Obama was not born in the U.S. And how does Giuliani respond? “I think he picked it up from Hillary Clinton,” he says.
As has been pointed out, Giuliani is wrong about the origin of birtherism. But his defending Trump by saying he got the idea from Clinton is something that isn’t going to impress many people outside of the community of Clinton haters.
It has obviously been a while since Giuliani was in school. If he remembered his school days a little more clearly, it is likely he would remember that “But she was doing it, too!” was never a defense your teachers found acceptable.
Here is the entire shouting match, via MSNBC. And can I say “welcome back” to the old confrontational Chris Matthews? We’ve missed you!
Featured image via video screen capture