Barack Obama's Birth Certificate Controversy, Explained

For as long as we can remember, there have been simmering rumors about the Obama family. One of the most distracting of these unfounded claims concerns Barack Obama's birth certificate. But how did these rumors start, and what exactly do they claim? Let's circle back to 2008 when Obama contested against Hillary Clinton for the presidency. Obama's campaign began to garner steam, and some Hillary fans didn't like this, so they began rumors that he was born in Kenya and transported to Hawaii to officially record his birth.

As these unfounded claims gained traction, journalist Jim Geraghty asked Obama to release his birth certificate to quell the rumors. So, a few days later, the father of two obliged, releasing a short form of his birth certificate. However, that was only the beginning of the rumors. Between 2008 and 2009, several lawsuits were filed alleging that Obama was born in Kenya and, therefore, ineligible to run. Two of these lawsuits were from Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General Philip J. Berg in August 2008 and lawyer Orly Taitz in August 2009. However, these lawsuits, as well as the others filed, were dismissed. Then, in 2011, Donald Trump publicly joined the birther rumor campaign.

Donald Trump's involvement in the Obama birther conspiracy started on The View

Donald Trump, then an entertainer and real estate mogul, was a guest on "The View" on a March 23, 2011 episode. During his appearance, he fueled the birther conspiracy by asking why Barack Obama hadn't shown his birth certificate. This question ignored the fact that the then-president had already released the short form. "Why doesn't he show his birth certificate? ... There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like." He also alleged that no one had pictures with Obama during his childhood in Hawaii.

Trump went on to support the hoax on several television appearances that year, including Fox News, "The Laura Ingraham Show," NBC's "Today," and MSNBC's "Morning Joe." A month after his appearance on "The View," Obama released a long form of his birth certificate specially issued by the Hawaii State Department of Health. Despite this, Trump continued to peddle the conspiracy, even tweeting in 2012: "An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud."

In October that year, Trump boldly posted a video on X, formerly Twitter, offering $5 million to a charity if Barack would release his college transcript and passport records. By 2014, with no evidence to back up his claims, the Republican made a desperate call to all hackers via X to "hack Obama's college records (destroyed?) and check 'place of birth.'" 

Donald Trump took his claims back in 2016

After numerous TV appearances and tweets, Donald Trump soon became a poster boy for Barack Obama's birther conspiracy. However, rather than doubling down on his claims during his campaign in 2016, Trump had a different tune on September 16. "President Obama was born in the United States. Period," he said.

Instead of taking responsibility for his role in propagating the conspiracy, Trump stated: "Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it." Clinton responded to Trump, tweeting, "This shouldn't have to be said: You don't just get to say someone else did the worst things you've done. It doesn't work. No one buys it."

She wasn't the only one upset with Trump about his role in the birther conspiracy. Former First Lady Michelle Obama wrote about him in her book "Becoming," released in 2018: "Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family's safety at risk. And for this, I'd never forgive him."