"I say nothing": Birther godfather Donald Trump declines to apologize to African-Americans, Obama in first debate

"I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate," Trump claimed. "I think I did a good job"

By Sophia Tesfaye
September 27, 2016 6:41AM (UTC)
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Donald Trump speaks during the debate in Hempstead, New York, U.S., September 26, 2016. (Reuters/Joe Raedle)

"I have the feeling that by the end of the evening I'm going to be blamed for everything that's ever happened," Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton half joked early in the first presidential debate against Republican Donald Trump.

Within minutes, Trump was yet again blaming the former secretary of state with having started the racist birther movement against President Barack Obama while declining to apologize for his role in propagating the conspiracy theory for more than five years.


Despite fears that Lester Holt would tumble into the same pitfalls that tripped up his NBC News colleague Matt Lauer, Monday night's debate moderator pressed Trump on various problematic statements repeated by the GOP nominee, including his incorrect claim that the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy was not ruled unconstitutional (Trump repeated the lie on the debate stage anyway) and his history of birtherism.

"Mr. Trump, for five years, you perpetuated a false claim that the nation's first black president was not a natural-born citizen," said Holt. "You questioned his legitimacy. In the last couple of weeks you acknowledged what most Americans have accepted for years, the president was born in the United States. Can you tell us what took you so long?"

"I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate and I think I did a good job," Trump replied, adding that Clinton's campaign — specifically, longtime Clinton aide (and onetime Salon politics editor) Sidney Blumenthal — was the original progenitor of the false claim.


"She failed to get the birth certificate," Trump continued.

"But we're talking about racial healing in this segment," Holt pointed out to Trump. "What do you say to African Americans?"

"I say nothing," he responded defiantly.

"I'm satisfied," Trump added, again congratulating himself for "getting [Obama] to release the birth certificate."


When asked to respond, Clinton drew laughter from the audience with her zinger: "Just listen to what you heard."

Watch below, via Media Matters:

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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