Donald Trump might still be a birther. Or maybe he isn’t, but only for political reasons?
In yet another confusing series of reversals from the Republican presidential nominee, the billionaire candidate is now casting doubt on whether or not he is still casting doubt on the birthplace of President Barack Obama.
In an interview with a local news affiliate in Toledo, Ohio on Wednesday Trump was asked why he had dropped the birther issue. "I wanted to get on with the campaign," Trump responded. “We want to talk about the military. We want to talk about ISIS and get rid of ISIS. We want to talk about bringing jobs back to this area because you've been decimated so we just wanted to get back on the subject of jobs, military, taking care of our vets, etc.”
Trump appears to be suggesting that he did not stop questioning the president’s birthplace because of an actual change of heart, but rather because he came to see the issue as a distraction. That’s a different note than the one that Trump struck in his statement last week, in which he stated unequivocally that, "President Barack Obama was born in the United States."
This is not the first time that Trump appears to have decided how to approach a factual issue based, not on evidence, but on the reaction it elicits. Last month Trump came under fire for calling President Obama “the founder of ISIS.” When questioned by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt about whether he literally believed the President of the United States founded a terror group, Trump doubled down on his original claim with the justification that “everyone is liking it.”
Trump’s comments on Wednesday will likely reassure his birther supporters, many of whom still believe he supports their cause. For example, that same day Trump supporter and notable birther, Sheriff Joe Arpaio told Politico that it “didn’t bother” him when Trump admitted the president was born in the United States. “He didn’t say the document was legitimate. He didn’t go that route.” Arpaio said in a statement to Politico, referring to the president’s birth certificate.
Trump will undoubtedly continue to walk the line between birtherism and reality in the lead-up to the first presidential debate on Monday. There, he will likely be pressed by both the moderator and Hillary Clinton to say publicly and on camera that he believes the president was born in Hawaii.