Birtherism was the conspiracy theory that was spread throughout Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and the early years of his presidency. It argued that Obama had lied about being born in Hawaii, and was in fact born in his father’s homeland of Kenya. During birtherism’s time, the public individual who pushed the conspiracy most frequently was the man who succeeded Obama as president, Donald Trump.
There was never any truth to the conspiracy theory, as Obama was born in Hawaii, as demonstrated on both his short- and longform birth certificates, as well as in contemporaneous birth announcements published in newspapers, per The Honolulu Advertiser. Even if he had been born in Kenya, Obama would have been eligible for the presidency, by virtue of his mother’s American citizenship.
But for many years, Trump pushed the notion that Obama was not eligible to be president, and even claimed at one point to have sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to look into the matter. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump acknowledged that Obama was born in the United States, while blaming Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign — once again falsely, per Politico— for having started the birther controversy.
The birtherism issue has not come up often since Trump became president, but it did this week, when reporter Jonathan Swan of Axios sat down with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and an influential White House advisor, for a rare on-camera interview for Axios‘ HBO show. In that interview, Kushner was asked about birtherism, as well as the over-arching question of whether the president is in fact a racist.
Kushner said that he hadn’t ever heard his father-in-law say something racist, and invoking the talking point that “you can’t not be a racist for 69 years and then run for president and be racist.” He went on to accuse Democrats who call Trump racist of “doing a disservice” to those who are victims of actual racism.
Then Swan asked Kushner if birtherism was racist.
“Look, I really wasn’t involved in that,” Kushner said. After he was asked again, Kushner said, “look, I know who the president is, I have not seen anything from him that is racist, and again, I was not involved in that.”
When asked by Swan if he wishes Trump hadn’t said those things, Kushner repeated, “I was not involved in that.” The presidential son-in-law went on to answer a question about whether the president’s Muslim ban was “religiously bigoted.”
“Look, the president did his campaign the way he did his campaign,” he said.
Kushner is accompanying the president this week on his visit to Europe.