In the most transparently cynical and self-serving move in a campaign that has set new bars for both, Donald Trump on Friday surrounded himself with US military veterans to plug his newest hotel before television cameras summoned for what he himself called a “major statement” and that his campaign staff promised would be followed by a press conference.
The Republican presidential nominee then blatantly lied about the racist conspiracy theory that he championed for years, claiming that his opponent had initiated rumors that President Obama was ineligible for the presidency because he was born in Africa. This wasn’t a misstatement. It wasn’t shading the truth. It was a lie. The claim has been debunked so many times that Trump cannot credibly claim to believe it is the truth..
It followed a statement released by his campaign Thursday claiming that Trump had been the only person able to “bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate.”
That was, no surprise, another blatant lie. President Obama released his birth certificate in 2011, and Trump continued to push bogus birther theories in interviews and on social media for years afterward. Yesterday, he refused in an interview with the Washington Post to say whether or not he believed Obama was born in the US. Friday morning; he refused in an interview with Fox Business News.
In downtown Washington on Friday, Trump stood by beaming while a line of aging war heroes, two of whom were awarded the nation’s highest honor for heroism in a war Trump sought five separate deferments to avoid, sang his praises. He thanked them, and then said:
“Now not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you every -- thank you very much.”
As he moved away from the podium reporters, some of them standing on chairs, began to shout questions at Trump. He ignored them. Then his staff barred print reporters and television reporters and producers from accompanying him on a tour of the hotel, allowing only the traveling press pool camera. By common agreement, the networks covering the event agreed to destroy the video of the tour of Trump’s property.
It was a small step, but possibly the beginning of a larger movement toward making Trump actually earn his “earned” media coverage.
Perhaps now there’s at least some hope that cable news networks, lying flat on their backs after having the football pulled away from them again, might finally resist the temptation to drop everything and air live coverage of the candidate’s every public utterance.
After Trump left the stage Friday, CNN’s John King said on camera, “We got played. We just got played.”