Apparently forgetting that President Donald Trump launched his political career by publicly questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth, conservative pundit Ben Shapiro on Monday credulously claimed that he was unaware of a “single major Republican figure” who said Obama wasn’t a legitimate president.
Discussing Democrats’ current lurch towards impeaching Trump while also blasting The New York Times' 1619 Project, Shapiro said that while Republicans did indeed impeach President Bill Clinton, “they never made a move to impeach Barack Obama,” claiming the GOP had plenty of opportunities due to the supposed “myriad scandals that cropped up during [Obama’s] administration.”
Shapiro, once described by The New York Times as the “cool kids’ philosopher,” then went on to insist there was no prominent GOP figure that ever questioned Obama’s legitimacy.
“I’m not aware of a single major Republican figure who said that Barack Obama was not the legitimate president of the United States,” he bizarrely asserted in a segment first noticed by Media Matters. “Despite the fact that Democrats have claimed that George W. Bush was illegitimate. They’ve claimed that Donald Trump is illegitimate.”
Shapiro added: “So this is just not true! And doubts about Barack Obama’s belief system came from Barack Obama being an extraordinarily radical figure. Barack Obama said he wanted to fundamentally transform the country. That’s a pretty radical statement!”
Trump, of course, made birtherism a central issue when he floated a possible 2012 White House run, going so far as to claim that he had investigators looking into Obama’s birth certificate in Hawaii. Even after Obama released his long-form birth certificate in April 2011, Trump continued to gin up birtherism for years—and the conspiracy theories became a fixture of right-wing media.
Furthermore, Trump was not alone among prominent Republicans in questioning whether Obama was a U.S.-born citizen. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the current House Freedom Caucus chair, campaigned in 2012 on a promise to “send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is.”
While Trump publicly insisted during the waning weeks of the 2016 campaign that he finally believed Obama was born in America, he continued to question the authenticity of the president’s birth certificate even after his own election, reviving doubts about it in conversations with lawmakers at the White House in 2017.
There were also several GOP lawmakers who mentioned the possibility of impeachment during Obama’s tenure, with many citing Benghazi, the debt ceiling, the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap, and the IRS controversy as reasons to impeach.
In fact, one congressman—Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold—even cited questions surrounding Obama’s birth certificate as a reason for impeachment.
UPDATE: Shapiro later doubled down, claiming on Twitter that “Trump was a fringe character” throughout the Obama presidency and wasn’t a “Republican figure” until he ran for president. He shifted goalposts and again (falsely) insisted he was correct that people “can’t name a single major elected Republican official” who challenged Obama’s legitimacy.
Interestingly, back in April 2011, Shapiro himself promoted a radio show segment in which he explained why he backed Trump when the then-celebrity TV star was thinking about a presidential run.
Shapiro also wrote a birther piece for Breitbart in May 2012, claiming at the time that the media was suppressing an old biography from a literary agency that said Obama was “born in Kenya.”