Trump ends one Obama ‘birther’ rumor by starting another

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reacts as reporters yell questions to him after he stated that he believes U.S. President Barack Obama was born in the United States at a campaign event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., U.S., September 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSO2Y0

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JUDY WOODRUFF:  The presidential campaign took a sudden detour today, back to President Obama’s origins.

For the first time, Donald Trump said publicly the president is, indeed, American by birth.  But, in the process, he stirred up a new storm of criticism.

LISA DESJARDINS:  For the presidential opponents both holding events within blocks of the White House, the day was a battle over truths.  His aides had said it recently, but, for the first time, Donald Trump himself acknowledged President Obama is a natural-born American citizen.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee:  President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.  Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LISA DESJARDINS:  It was a complete reversal for the man who years stoking the so-called birther controversy.  This is on “The Today Show” in 2011.

DONALD TRUMP:  You are not allowed to be president if you are not born in this country.  He may not have been born in this country.

LISA DESJARDINS:  When the White House made the president’s birth certificate public two weeks later, Trump questioned if the document was real.  And even as a presidential candidate, in January of this year, Trump refused to acknowledge the president was indeed born in Hawaii.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN:  Is he a natural-born citizen?

DONALD TRUMP:  Who knows?  Who knows?  Who cares right now?

LISA DESJARDINS:  Today, clearly, Hillary Clinton cared, even before Trump spoke.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee:  For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president.  His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie.  There is no erasing it in history.

LISA DESJARDINS:  There was more outrage from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said Trump is unrepentant and an opportunist.

REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D-N.C.):  By any definition, Donald Trump is a disgusting fraud.

LISA DESJARDINS:  At the White House today, President Obama declined to respond to Trump’s public change on the issue.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  I was pretty confident about where I was born.  I think most people were as well.  And my hope would be that the presidential election reflects more serious issues than that.

LISA DESJARDINS:  But Trump today raised another birther controversy.  He alleged Clinton is to blame.

DONALD TRUMP:  Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.  I finished it.

LISA DESJARDINS:  There is no evidence of that.  Fact-checks proving it to be false abound.  Clinton’s 2008 campaign did fight tooth and nail with President Obama, but she never questioned his birthplace.

There was one more geographic story today, where Trump chose to hold his event, his new D.C. hotel.  When Trump took cameras on a hotel tour, but wouldn’t allow producers who would ask questions, all of the major networks refused to use the footage, seeing it as a publicity stunt.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be the only candidates at the first presidential debate in 10 days.  The Commission on Presidential Debates said today that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein don’t have high enough standings in public opinion polls to qualify.

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