On Sunday, Donald Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway dismissed criticism of her candidate for being a champion of the “birther” movement during an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press. The issue is back in the spotlight after Trump tried to dismiss his association with the fringe movement in one sentence during a Friday press address.
When host Chuck Todd asked Conway how and when Donald Trump concluded that President Obama was born in the United States, she coolly replied, “You’ll have to ask him that. That’s a personal decision.” Conway repeated her campaign’s accusation that Hillary Clinton was responsible for starting speculation that the president was born in Kenya.
“Who cares about the Clinton incident?” Todd asked. “Donald Trump, for five years, perpetuated this. This has been, arguably, part of his political identity for the last five years. So what difference does it make whether Clinton does it? Why do two wrongs make a right in this case? That’s what I’m– forget the Clinton incident for a minute. Why did he perpetuate it for five years after some associates from Hillary Clinton, in your words?”
Conway evaded the question, launching into a monologue that focused on Clinton’s campaign against then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008, and later her campaign against Senator Bernie Sanders. “But Kellyanne, hang on a minute,” Todd interrupted.
“You guys, in a press release on Friday, called Birtherism a smear. You used the word ‘smear.’ So for five years, and you were doing it to try to attack Hillary Clinton, does that mean for five years Donald Trump was perpetuating a smear? So if he was, why didn’t Donald Trump apologize to the president? Why didn’t Donald Trump apologize to the family of somebody who died in a plane crash where he tweeted out innuendo that this person somehow was involved in some cover-up with the birth certificate? If your campaign believes it’s a smear, shouldn’t Donald Trump apologize to the president?”
Trump’s campaign manager scoffed at the journalist’s questions. “In 2007 and 2008, Chuck, Donald Trump wasn’t running against Barack Obama for president,” she replied. “He wasn’t smearing him about this. He was building buildings. He was being his successful self, a job creator.” But Todd kept on pushing:
“In 2012, when he was thinking about running for president, he tweeted things like this: ‘An extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.’ Also in 2012: ‘When I was 18, people called me Donald Trump. When he was 18, Barack Obama was Barry Soweto. Weird.’ Those are just a number of examples, when he was running for president, where he was bringing up this issue. So how can you just totally dismiss this as part of his political identity?”
“I think the only people left obsessed about this are those still covering it,” Conway insisted, stating that voters don’t want the media to cover her candidate’s birtherism. “People are supposed to be covering our candidate, not slandering him consistently on social media.”
“I get what you’re deflecting,” Todd replied. “And if I were in your shoes, I understand why you’re deflecting.”