On September 16th, at a televised press conference, Donald Trump finally admitted what the rational and sane among us always had known. He conceded that President Obama was born in the United States and was thus a legitimate American citizen. This latent and belated admission by the 2016 GOP nominee supposedly closed the long-running and rambling chapter that had been written over the past few years. All previous denunciations and skepticism by Trump came to an abrupt halt, in theory, on September 16.
Like many, if not virtually everything that involves Trump, the admission was not without controversy. Rather than admit that he had engaged in a perverse level of irresponsible behavior, he shifted the blame to his presidential rival Hillary Clinton and her campaign staffs ― both past and present ― for creating such a foul rumor. Clinton quickly and effectively refuted any allegations that her campaign had anything to do with such sinister antics and denounced Trump as being disgraceful. The mainstream media immediately supported Clinton's claim that neither she nor her campaign was involved with the "President Obama is not an American birther nonsense."
Speaking of the mainstream media, anyone who followed that story throughout the day could witness the intense level of anger, annoyance, disgust and resentment that was reverberating on many news networks. It was clear that many reporters, news anchors, radio hosts and other media folk felt a sharp pain in their gut as if they had been kicked in the stomach. It was the feeling that many people get once they come to the realization that they had been conned. It was obvious that segments of the press were still wiping the egg off their faces and many were sucking their thumbs both publically and privately. CNN anchor John King bluntly stated, "It looks like we have been played." His assessment was spot on.
Despite the fact that Trump manipulated an all too eager press to anticipate his unusually short and brief press conference (some arrived hours early to get a seat, others booked overnight rooms) as he proudly promoted his new hotel and made the event about him as much as possible (standard Trump behavior) and deprived the press any opportunity to ask questions, the fact is that large portions of the media have contributed to the Trump juggernaut/phenomenon. Almost immediately since he announced his campaign for president he has been afforded nonstop press and in some cases preferential treatment that was largely absent for other presidential candidates in the form of scheduling, espousing rhetoric and making statements that that bordered on the ridiculous. Thus the result of Friday's press conference was a classic example of chickens coming home to roost.
Now that Trump has admitted to that fact that Obama is an American citizen (something he undoubtedly already knew) he and his staff will have to redirect his energies to keep their conservative right wing base pacified. Indeed, led by rabid conspiracy theorist Orly Taitz, the birther issue was a highly effective, if not perverse strategy in appealing to America's most jingoistic voting electorate. It was red meat for the nation's most racially afflicted voters. It played right into their sordid and largely unhinged psyches. A highly exploitative issue for sure.
The fact is that there is a sizable segment of White Americans (as well as some non-White Americans) that cannot come to grips with the fact that the nation actually elected a Black man as president. To these men and women, a Black president is a fantasy. An image solely relegated to literature, Hollywood movies and other fictional spheres. Not as a real-life figure. To these men and women, having a Black man as leader of the free world is incomprehensible. For the bigoted, it is an affront to both their racial sensibilities and to the sort of America they would like to envision.
Even recent polling demonstrates that many Americans, particularly conservative voters are skeptical of President Obama's American citizenship. A NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found that 80% percent of Democrats agreed with the statement that "Barack Obama was born in the United States," while 41 percent of Republicans disagreed with it.
The truth is that some of President Obama's critics have substantial disagreements with him that are based on policy and in some cases ideology that is not free of racial animus. Nonetheless, the fact is the birther movement was/is grounded in racial animosity and many supporters and members of the birther movement were motivated by racism. Trump's sudden disavowal and closing the chapter of his long held "belief" will probably do little, if anything, to assuage the more die hard and adamantly bigoted detractors of the president.
Elwood Watson, Ph.D. is a Professor and contributor to the Huffington Post.
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