Clinton's '08 campaign chief: We didn't start 'birther' movement

Story highlights

  • "The campaign, nor Hillary, did not start the birther movement," she said
  • She said Clinton fired a volunteer that forwarded an email that did question Obama's background

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign manager rejected Donald Trump's claim Friday that the campaign was responsible for the "birther" movement.

"The campaign, nor Hillary, did not start the birther movement. Period. End of the story," Patti Solis Doyle told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "There was a volunteer coordinator, I believe in late 2007, I think in December. One of our volunteer coordinators in one of the counties in Iowa, I don't recall whether they were an actual a paid staffer, but they did forward an email that promoted the conspiracy."
    "The birther conspiracy?" Blitzer asked.
    "Yeah. Hillary made the decision immediately to let that person go. We let that person go, and it was so, you know, beyond the pale, Wolf, and you know, so not worthy the kind of campaign that certainly Hillary wanted to run or that we as a staff wanted to run that I called David Plouffe, who was obviously managing Barack Obama's campaign in '07, to apologize and basically say this is not coming from us."
    Jason Miller, a spokesman for GOP nominee Donald Trump's campaign, seized on those remarks, citing them as an admission that the Clinton campaign initiated the birther conspiracy.
    "With Clinton's 2008 campaign manager admitting on national television and on Twitter that they promoted the rumors surrounding now-President Obama's heritage, Mr. Trump has been fully vindicated," Miller said in a statement. "Not only was a Clinton campaign worker blamed and fired over the activity, we have now been informed that Secretary Clinton was aware of what was going on, with Clinton's campaign manager even apologizing to Obama's campaign manager."
    Solis Doyle later clarified her remarks, telling CNN that the email referred to Obama's heritage, not his birthplace.
    In her interview with Blitzer, Solis Doyle said she was not aware of a memorandum written by Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster and Clinton 2008 strategist, that seemed to question the President's Americanism.
    "I don't know exactly what he wrote, but certainly we never -- the '08 campaign -- never promoted the birther conspiracy. Whether we took whatever advice was in that memorandum, it is clear by the campaign that we ran that we did not use it at that time," she said.
    Doyle also sought to dispel the rumors on Twitter Friday.
    Trump has falsely accused her campaign of starting the "birther" movement. While the former secretary of state has never publicly questioned Obama's citizenship, some of her staff members did question Obama's background during the 2008 Democratic primary fight.
    Penn's memo in March 2007, while not raising the issue of Obama's citizenship, did identify Obama's "lack of American roots" as something that "could hold him back."
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    Reggie Love, the longtime traveling aide to Obama, wrote in his book that Clinton and Obama had a heated conversation about the notion that Clinton supporters were sending emails saying that he was a Muslim.
    In a March 2008 interview with "60 Minutes," Clinton said she took then-Sen. Obama's word that he was not a Muslim, but when pressed if she believed he was, she replied, "No. No, there is nothing to base that on -- as far as I know."
    In a statement Thursday night announcing that Trump believes Obama was born in the US, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said, "Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised."
    On Friday, the Republican nominee for the first time publicly said Obama was born in the US.