The following was previously published as part of the Wikinews series chronicling the 2016 presidential election
After attacks from Hillary Clinton painting Donald Trump as a racist conspiracy theorist for his role in the birther movement, Donald Trump disavowed the movement on September 16, asserting “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.” Through a press release, the campaign connected the origins of the birther movement to Clinton’s against then-Senator Obama for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. However, the rumors actually go back to Obama’s against former ambassador . At the time, Andy Martin, a perennial candidate for political office and vexatious litigant, sent out a press release questioning Obama’s background. In the years that followed, rumors spread across the Internet, morphing into the theory that Obama was actually born in Kenya, which peaked during the . Trump reignited the controversy in 2011, while considering a run for president. Increased interest resulted in Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate in 2011, but Trump, who ended up not running for another four years, continued to question its authenticity — that is, until now. With Trump’s change of heart, Wikinews sought out Martin, the man who refers to himself as the “Birther King” and “founder” of the birther movement.
The origins of the birther movement are somewhat murky. According to The New York Times, Martin is “widely credited” with starting the “whisper campaign” that morphed into the movement, beginning with an August 2004 press release on claiming Obama was a secret . Although, Martin recalls, he never espoused the Kenyan birth theory, he sued for the release of the long form certificate in in 2008. After which, “crazies took over the movement and proposed increasingly irrational and unfounded claims Obama was born in Kenya.”
“Everybody uses my research as a takeoff point,” Martin told The Times in 2008, “and exaggerate them to suit their own fantasies.”
Martin first spoke to Wikinews in August 2011 when he was running for the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination. In the interview, Martin expressed his belief, based on a research trip to Hawaii, that Obama’s real father was not Kenyan economist but Hawaii-based journalist and labor activist . This theory has not caught on as persistently among birthers as the Kenyan birth. Martin discussed Trump during the interview, describing him as “not serious” and saying his foray into presidential politics and the birther movement looked like a “charade.”
Martin’s opinion of Trump seems to have since changed in five years. After Martin launched another run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he soon began praising Trump and using his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” on press releases. He entered theprimary this year and received about 200 votes (0.07%), the highest among lesser-known candidates and more even than former governor who was still in the race at the time. Months later, Martin officially endorsed Trump for president.
As for Trump’s change of heart, Martin says by “clos[ing] the book” Trump handled criticism from Clinton about birtherism well. He says Clinton’s attacks are “desperate and counterproductive” and argues the issue is “almost certainly going to boomerang on Clinton.” Although he disputes Trump’s claim the Clinton campaign actually started the birther movement, he says the Clinton campaign “clearly tried in 2008 to fuel the Birther controversy by trying to focus media attention on Obama’s place of birth.”
Martin sent out a press release on September 18 promoting what he called the “last birther news conference.” Despite his desire to put the issue to rest, Martin sees it as unlikely, arguing that Obama and Clinton continue to add “new fuel to the fire.”
“Obama fed the Birther movement because he has shamelessly use[d] Birther catnip to irritate and frustrate the right”, says Martin, but “Obama and Clinton have been grievously wrong in believing the Birther controversy helps them. It harmed Obama, and it has harmed the nation, and it will not help Clinton during the presidential election.”