Donald Trump lacks the gene, or rather the character, to ever admit that he was wrong. Still, his surrogates (Rudi Guiliani and Mike Pence) have both addressed the question this week and acknowledged that Obama is a natural born U.S. citizen. All that was left was for Trump himself to publicly admit it -- which he hinted that he would do -- promising a big announcement about it at a press conference on Friday at his new hotel in Washington.
Which, of course, guaranteed that cable news programs would go live to cover the hotel opening. And -- big surprise -- he never uttered any words closely resembling "I was wrong" or "I'm sorry." After bragging on his new hotel (under budget and ahead if deadline, another lie), then for 20 minutes allowing some veterans to praise him, he finally made his announcement on Obama's birth; and here is what he said . . . it took all of 30 seconds:
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”The CNN news team, which covered it live, were particularly livid. “We got played,” they admitted on air. Jake Tapper was blunt: “Those are two factually false statements. . . . She and her campaign never, never started the birther issue. Second, Donald Trump did not end the birther issue.” John Berman pointed out that, in 2011, Trump made this his "signature issue. . . . No one has gone as far as Donald Trump on the birther issue."
John King, who interviewed Trump the day that Obama produced his birth certificate, was irate. “After four or five years of leading a fraudulent and reckless campaign against the legitimacy of the United States president, you got, what, about six or seven words from Donald Trump?" Berman chimed in, "And none of those words were ‘I’m sorry, I apologize.’ Or explaining why he ever questioned the birth status of the United States president.”
We'll see how long this story lasts. At least CNN seems aghast (finally) and abashed that they got played . . . once again. By promising a big announcement, Trump got live cable coverage of his hotel opening, plus 30 minutes or so of basking in praise. They would never have broadcast that live, except for his teaser of big news coming. Then he stuck it to them with a little 30 second sound bite that created lies, yet only a perfunctory statement that Obama was born in the U.S.. No explanation for why it took him five years; no apology. Then he would not take questions. So he flat-out lied in calling it a "press conference." They were played, and they know it.
The only apt metaphor that occurs to me is Lucy and the old football trick from the "Peanuts" cartoon strip. Is this finally enough for the media to say "enough?" Or will they be Charlie Brown, so trusting and always believing Lucy when she promises that, this time, she really means it. She won't jerk away the football just as Charlie Brown runs forward to kick it. But then she always does. And he always falls flat on his back.
Late note: Following that press event, where he took no questions, Trump led a tour of the hotel. He let the press pool camera come along but refused to allow the pool reporter to come, further avoiding any questions. So the networks have all refused to air the video footage of the tour. It's a first pushback from the media. Will they stop fawning over him now?
Last night on MSNBC, David Korn suggested that this may have crossed the line with the mainstream media, because they have been much more direct since then in using the word "lies" about what he says.