Reince Priebus says Clinton campaign and supporters started the birther movement
By Allison Graves, PolitiFact
People may have heard from Donald Trump about the long-running myth that President Barack Obama was born outside of the United States, but Republicans say the rumor actually started from those on the left.
According to GOP chairman Reince Priebus, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and supporters were responsible for starting the myth.
“Her campaign and her supporters in her campaign were the ones that borne out the birther movement,” Priebus told NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a claim about the birther movement. In 2015, Donald Trump tweeted that Hillary Clinton started the movement in 2008, adding “She was all in!”
We rated this statement False, because there was no link to the movement and Clinton.
Priebus falls halfway into the same hole, but added that her supporters also started the myth. We wanted to revisit the claim in a broader context.
It started with an email
In a previous fact-check, we found no evidence that Clinton or her official campaign had any direct link to starting the birther movement.
Factcheck.org confirmed this, too. They reported that no journalist who explored this theory found a connection to anyone in the Clinton camp.
Clinton even denied the accusation when CNN’s Don Lemon asked if she started the rumor Obama was not born in America.
“That is — no. That is so ludicrous, Don. You know, honestly, I just believe that, first of all, it’s totally untrue, and secondly, you know, the president and I have never had any kind of confrontation like that,” Clinton said.
So the first part of Priebus’ statement is inaccurate. However, Priebus has a point about Clinton supporters starting the movement.
During a somewhat close primary race between Obama and Clinton, it was reported that Clinton supporters sent out anonymous emails questioning if Obama was actually born in Hawaii.
This was originally reported by Politico and the Telegraph. In addition, John Avalon, editor-in-chief of the the Daily Beast, wrote in his book, Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America, that Clinton volunteer Linda Starr played a key role in spreading the tale.
Starr, who served as a delegate in the Texas state convention, volunteered for the Clinton campaign during the Texas primary, according to Avalon.
Starr teamed up with a Pennsylvania lawyer Philip Berg, and Berg went to federal court, suing to block Obama’s nomination. That suit was thrown out multiple times, according to our article from 2015.
On June 7, 2008, Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign, and urged her supporters to rally behind Obama.
Priebus said Clinton’s campaign and her supporters started the birther movement. Half of this claim is true.
It has been reported by several news outlets that Clinton supporters sent emails accusing Obama of being born outside the United States. However, there is no evidence that Clinton or her official campaign had anything to do with it.
On balance, we rate Priebus’ claim Half True.
PolitiFact, Did Hillary Clinton start the Obama birther movement? Sept. 23, 2016
Telegraph, Birther row began with Hillary Clinton, April 27, 2011
Politico, “Birtherism: Where it all began,” April 22, 2011
Factcheck.org, Was Hillary Clinton the Original ‘Birther’?, July 2, 2015
Daily Beast, The ‘Birthers’ Began on the Left, Feb. 7, 2010
NBC News, Meet the Press — August 28, 2016, accessed Aug. 29, 2016
Interview, Lindsay Walters, Republican National Committee spokeswoman, Aug. 29, 2016