Politics

Clinton Denies 2008 Campaign’s Role in Birther, Muslim Rumors About Obama

Hillary Clinton flatly denied her failed 2008 presidential campaign had anything to do with starting rumors that Barack Obama was born abroad or that he was a Muslim Wednesday during a radio interview with CNN anchor Don Lemon.

Lemon alluded to the report that then-Sen. Obama confronted Clinton on the tarmac of Reagan National Airport for spreading the false rumors that he was a Muslim.

"Do you care to respond?" Lemon asked. "Did you or your campaign start the whole birther thing? And did you have that confrontation with the president?"

"That is so ludicrous, Don," Clinton said. "First of all, it's totally untrue, and secondly, the president and I have never had any kind of confrontation like that. You know, this is such a bad example of what's wrong with instantaneous reactions and Americans getting all worked up and people feeding prejudice and paranoia like Donald Trump. Obviously, all of us have to stand against it, and I have been blamed for nearly everything. That was a new one to me."

Clinton's campaign was criticized at the time for just that, however, after her team circulated pictures of Obama in a turban-like headdress during a diplomatic trip to Kenya in 2006. Clinton hedged during a 60 Minutes interview in 2008 as well, saying she had no reason to believe Obama was a Muslim "as far as I know."

MSNBC's Morning Joe castigated Clinton for her hypocrisy on the issue Monday after she berated Trump for not rebuking a supporter who suggested Obama was a Muslim.

"For Hillary Clinton to come out and criticize anybody for spreading the rumors about Barack Obama, when it all started with her and her campaign passing things around in the Democratic primary—rich," host Joe Scarborough said. "This started with Hillary Clinton, and it was spread by the Clinton team in 2008."

Author John Heilemann affirmed Scarborough's words, saying "it was the case" that the origins of the rumors about Obama began with Clinton's team.

Full exchange:

DON LEMON: I have to ask you this question, because I'm sure it's something that you thought had been handled in 2007, 2008. But with Donald Trump and with Ben Carson over and over again saying these things about Muslims, about the president's birthplace. This week, people have been saying on-air here, and I've been reporting it on CNN and I've been reporting it here, that you were the person behind the whole birther thing, that the president–senator at the time–president-elect actually confronted you about that. Do you care to respond? Did you or your campaign start the whole birther thing? And did you have that confrontation with the president?

HILLARY CLINTON: That is–no. That is so ludicrous, Don. You know, honestly, I just believe that–first of all, it's totally untrue, and secondly, the president and I have never had any kind of confrontation like that. You know, this is such a bad example of what's wrong with instantaneous reactions and Americans getting all worked up and people feeding prejudice and paranoia like Donald Trump. Obviously, all of us have to stand against it, and I have been blamed for nearly everything. That was a new one to me. I'll just keep going and talking about what I want to do to get incomes rising and making college affordable and making all of the positive changes that we have to be worried about.

Update: (1:59 p.m.) An earlier version of this post mistakenly said Clinton "had reason to believe" Obama was a Muslim "as far as I know," when it was supposed to say "had no reason to believe." This has been corrected.