WASHINGTON — Donald Trump said Friday he now believes President Obama was born in the United States, seeking to bury an issue he has used repeatedly the past 5½ years to appeal to ultra-conservative audiences.
"President Obama was born in the United States — period," Trump said after a campaign event featuring decorated veterans endorsing him.
Trump walked off the stage without taking questions.
As reporters in the back of the room stood, yelled and shouted questions at Trump, the crowd invited to the event began yelling "U-S-A! U-S-A!"
In his brief statement — little more than 30 seconds — the Republican nominee also blamed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for starting "birther" rumors during the 2008 primary against Obama, but there is no factual basis for that claim.
The New York businessman offered no apology or explanation for why he promoted the so-called "birther" issue since at least 2011.
Clinton, speaking Friday to an African-American women's group in Washington, D.C, dismissed Trump's changed position, accusing him of leading "the birther movement to de-legitimize our first black president," and adding that his entire presidential campaign was "founded on this outrageous lie."
After Trump's brief statement, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said "it was appalling to watch Trump appoint himself the judge of whether the President of the United States is American — this sickening display shows more than ever why Donald Trump is totally unfit be president.”
Trump, who had not personally said Obama was born in Hawaii before Friday, announced earlier in the day he would make a special announcement on the topic.
"We have to keep the suspense going," the Republican presidential nominee told Fox Business Network just hours before a campaign event at his new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
Most of the event consisted of military veterans endorsing Trump — only at the end did he address the Obama birthplace issue, and then for less than a minute.
Obama, born in Hawaii in 1961, declined to discuss Trump before a White House meeting on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership with Pacific Rim nations, telling reporters, "I'm shocked that a question like that would come up at a time when we've got so many other things to do. Well, I'm not that shocked actually — it's fairly typical."
The president added, "I was pretty confident about where I was born. I think most people were, as well. And my hope would be that the presidential election reflects more serious issues than that."
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