GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence on Birtherism: 'It's Over'

“I think Donald Trump put an end to this issue,” Pence said on "This Week."

ByINES DE LA CUETARA
September 18, 2016, 9:01 AM

— -- Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence has declared birtherism -- the notion that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States -- “over.”

“I think Donald Trump put an end to this issue,” Pence said today on ABC’s This Week, referring to Trump's brief statement Friday acknowledging that the president was born in the U.S.

Pence acknowledged this fact before his running mate, telling reporters in early September that he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.

“It is fact,” Pence said. “And Donald Trump and I have both acknowledged that without hesitation.”

Pence went on to dispute the idea that the GOP presidential candidate bears responsibility for furthering the notion that Obama was born outside the country. Trump pushed the 'birther' idea for five years after the president in 2011 released his long-form birth certificate in an attempt to put the conspiracy theory to rest.

Pence told ABC's Martha Raddatz that the birther movement didn't begin with Trump but could be traced “all the way back to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008.”

He said birtherism is a “sidebar issue” and that “the American people aren’t focused on the debates of the past."

“Throughout this campaign, he hasn't been talking about it,” Pence said of Trump. “He's been talking about the need to have a stronger America at home and abroad.”

When asked about former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' denouncing Trump as "unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief" in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pence said Gates was “wrong.”

“I have a lot of respect for Secretary Gates, and worked with him during my years on the foreign affairs committee. But he's just wrong,” he said.

“The simple truth is that -- that, during his tenure as secretary of defense -- Secretary Gates was part of the Obama administration's handling of the U.S. withdrawal-- from Iraq ... And the way that we got out, without renegotiating a status-of-forces agreement, without leaving any combat forces in Iraq, created a vacuum in which [the] ISIS caliphate was able to rise up and compromise large areas of Iraq to this very day that were hard-fought and won by the sacrifices of American soldiers,” Pence said.

Pence also sought to explain what Trump meant Friday when he said that Clinton’s contingent of Secret Service officers should disarm and “let’s see what happens to her.”

The vice presidential candidate said, “I think what Donald Trump was saying is if Hillary Clinton didn't have all that security -- she'd probably be a whole lot more supportive of the Second Amendment,” he said.

He said allegations that Trump was inciting violence against the Democratic nominee are “absolute nonsense.”

“His comment was that if she didn't have all that security, she'd change her attitude about the right to keep and bear arms. And I'll bet that's probably true,” Pence said.

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