Donald Trump’s former campaign manager reignited the long-debunked “birther” conspiracy theory on Tuesday night.
Corey Lewandowski, now a CNN analyst/in-house Trump surrogate, suggested that President Barack Obama hadn’t released his Harvard transcripts because they might show he wasn’t a citizen of the United States.
The bizarre claim came after political commentator Angela Rye noted that Trump’s attacks on the president began long before the election season, as Trump had repeatedly demanded that Obama release his birth certificate and college transcripts to prove he was an American.
It was a passing example of how Trump has been verbally assaulting the president since at least 2011.
Lewandowski seized on that opening.
“Well, you raised the issue, I’m just asking,” Lewandowski said in a clip posted online by Media Matters. “You raised the issue, did he ever release his transcripts or his admission to Harvard University? You raised the issue, so just ‘yes,’ or ‘no’?”
After some back-and-forth, Lewandowski went into full birther mode:
“The only reason it’s germane is because she brought the issue up, and said Donald Trump raised the issue of his Harvard transcripts. And I just simply said ‘have those ever been released?’ And the question was ‘did he get in as a U.S. citizen, or was he brought in to Harvard University as a citizen who wasn’t from this country?’”
Trump made the “birther” conspiracy theory a core issue when he was toying with the possibility of entering the 2012 presidential race. While he hasn’t spoken about the issue lately, he has never disavowed it.
Asked about it last year by Stephen Colbert on the “Late Show,” Trump refused to acknowledge that the president was indeed an American citizen.
“I don’t talk about that anymore,” was all he could muster.
Obama, for the record, has released both his “short-form” and “long-form” birth certificates. In addition, two Honolulu newspapers printed birth announcements at the time. Speaking at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner after the release of the long-form birth certificate, Obama said Trump “can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing?”