The Last Time Donald Trump Talked About 'Birtherism'

Does the Republican nominee stand by his 2013 interview on birtherism?

Mike Pence says he believes President Obama was born in the United States. What about Donald Trump?

As you may recall, Trump embraced the fringe and widely discredited theory that Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not a legitimate president. Trump’s involvement with what had been a fringe movement caused such a stir that the President Obama was forced to address it personally on April 27, 2011, speaking to the nation from the White House briefing room and producing a copy of his birth certificate proving, once and for all, yes, he was born in Hawaii.

Trump supporter Ben Carson said Tuesday it would be a “good idea” if Trump apologized for his embrace of birtherism but Trump has studiously avoided the issue since he launched his presidential campaign last year -– just yesterday telling Bill O’Reilly “I don’t even talk about it anymore, Bill, because I just don’t bother talking about it.”

But Trump did address the issue, at some length, in an interview with me at the beginning of the 2016 presidential cycle. And he left no doubt that his feelings on the issue had not changed.

The interview took place in Iowa in August 2013 as Trump was making his very first trip to the Hawkeye State as a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

At the time, not many people were taking the idea of a Trump presidential campaign very seriously. As a measure of his seriousness, I wanted to know if Trump still believed in birtherism. The question resulted in a spirited exchange where Trump stuck firmly to his support of the theory:

KARL: You said a lot of things over the years that people say just make you not serious. One of the big things is on the birth certificate –

TRUMP: Why does that make me not serious? I think that resonated with a lot of people.

KARL: But you don’t still question that he was born in the United States, do you?

TRUMP: I have no idea.

KARL: Even at this point?

TRUMP: Well I don’t know. Was it a birth certificate? You tell me. Some people say that was not his birth certificate. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows. And you don’t know either, Jonathan. You’re a smart guy. You don’t know either.

KARL: I’m pretty convinced he was born –

TRUMP: Pretty! Ah, pretty, pretty! You said pretty!

KARL: I’m convinced, I’m totally –

TRUMP: No no you said pretty –

KARL: -- totally without question that he was born in the United States.

TRUMP: Excuse me, Jonathan, you said you were pretty convinced. Okay? So let’s just see what happens over time. But it’s not my issue, Jonathan.

KARL: Okay let me ask you something else –

TRUMP: My issue right now is much different, wait a minute. My issue is economic. Our country is being ripped apart by China and many other countries. That’s my issue.

KARL: But isn't it going to be harder for people to take you seriously on those issues if you don't acknowledge that you went overboard on this whole birther stuff?

TRUMP: Well, I don't think I went overboard. Actually, I think it made me very popular, if you want to know the truth, OK? So I do think I know what I'm doing.

KARL: But on this issue, people think that you were just out to lunch.

TRUMP: Well you just said you were pretty sure. And if you’re pretty sure, that’s not acceptable. Because you can’t be pretty sure, you have to be 100 percent.

KARL: I’m sure, I’m 100 percent sure, for the record.

TRUMP: I don’t think you are.

KARL: Well let me ask you this. Ted Cruz, born in Canada. Is he eligible to be president of the United States?

TRUMP: Well if he was born in Canada, perhaps not. I’m not sure where he was born.

KARL: Oh he was definitely born in Canada.

TRUMP: Okay well then you’ll have to ask him that question. But perhaps not.

KARL: Ted Cruz’s mother was an American citizen. He’s an American.

TRUMP: Look that will be ironed out. I don’t know the circumstances. I heard, somebody told me, that he was born in Canada. That’s really his thing.