Donald Trump on Wednesday night continued his apparent crusade to bring legitimacy to the "birther" movement, sparring with conservative Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly over the matter of President Obama's citizenship - and why he is so invested in the issue.
Trump, who has in recent months been openly (if somewhat dubiously) toying with a presidential bid, also brought up the birther issue on a recent episode of "The View," where he tussled with co-host Whoopi Goldberg over his call for Mr. Obama to produce his birth certificate.
And he said in interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" earlier this month that "the reason I have a little doubt, just a little, is because he grew up and nobody knew him."
O'Reilly, however, pointed out that a number of journalists - himself included - had thoroughly investigated the theory that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States, before putting the issue "to bed" due to a lack of evidence.
Noting that Mr. Obama's birth announcement ran in two Hawaiian newspapers, O'Reilly argued that faking his place of birth would be "impossible to make happen" - and derided the idea that there had been a "sophisticated conspiracy" to fabricate Mr. Obama's early history.
"His mother was a hippie; his father was a guy from Kenya who split...What is he? Baby Jesus?" O'Reilly joked. "There was a sophisticated conspiracy to smuggle this baby back into the country?"
Trump countered that far more nefarious conspiracies were possible.
"I grew up with Wall Street geniuses," Trump said. "What they do in terms of fraud and how they change documents..."
"I have my birth certificate," he continued. "People have birth certificates. He doesn't have a birth certificate. Now he may have one, but there is something on that birth certificate - maybe religion. Maybe it says he's a Muslim. I don't know."
Trump went on to point out, as he has on multiple previous occasions, that he dislikes the term "birthers," and thinks those who question Mr. Obama's American citizenship are treated unfairly.
"You know I started out by saying, and I always do, I did on 'The View,' I'm a very smart guy - I went to the best college, I had good marks, I was a very smart guy, good student, all that stuff," Trump said. (The business magnate, who went to Fordham University and then the Wharton School of Business, has repeatedly touted his college credentials as evidence that his views on the "birther" issue should hold weight.) "What they do to the birthers - which is a term I hate... is unbelievable," he added.
In a phone interview with MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" on Thursday, Trump again defended his take on the controversy - and panned the media for continuing to bring attention to it.
"Well I do think it's a serious issue, Savannah, but I also think that a lot of people, frankly, like yourselves... they bring it up as the first question," he told hosts Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd.
When pressed on why he was so attached to this particular controversy - which many believe is a ploy for attention - Trump said he was "proud of the issue."
"I am embracing the issue and I'm proud of the issue. I think somebody has to embrace the issue because frankly the people that are - and I don't like the name birther, because I think it's very unfair and I think it's very derogatory to a lot of very good people who happen to think that there's a possibility that this man was not born in this country."
O'Reilly, for one, remained unconvinced that Trump truly believed the line of argument he was pushing.
"You get a lot of attention raising the question, but I don't think you believe it," he said.
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