Jan 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump's history of launching "birther" conspiracy theories against rivals

Former President Trump at a Fox News Town Hall on Jan. 10 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former President Trump resumed old tricks this week against a new target — fellow Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

The big picture: Trump has a history of launching racist "birther" conspiracies against opponents, particularly to discredit those he sees as a direct threat to him.

Driving the news: Trump on Monday promoted such a conspiracy theory against Haley, who has solidified her second-place polling in New Hampshire closely behind the former president.

  • Trump shared a post by The Gateway Pundit, a far-right website popular among his supporters that pedals a number of conspiracy theories, which calls into question Haley's U.S. citizenship and deems her ineligible to hold the high office.
  • The post falsely claims that because Haley's immigrant parents, who are from India, were not U.S. citizens in 1972 when she was born, she is disqualified from being president or vice-president under the 12th Amendment.

Be smart: Haley was born in the U.S., thus automatically making her a citizen.

Flashback: Trump was part of the "birther" movement against former President Obama, which falsely claimed that the Hawaii-born then-president was actually born in Kenya and that his birth certificate was forged.

  • During the 2016 election, Trump launched similar claims against then-Republican presidential primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — claiming he was unqualified as he was born in Canada (to a U.S. citizen-mother, which qualified him as a natural born citizen).

Of note: Vice President Kamala Harris was a target during the 2020 election of a baseless conspiracy theory pushed by a Trump campaign official and others claiming she could be ineligible for the vice presidency because both her parents weren't naturalized citizens at her birth.

  • Trump told reporters at the time that his presidential campaign would "not be pursuing" the claim, but refused to say affirmatively that the California-born Harris was, in fact, eligible.

Meanwhile, Trump's eligibility to be on the ballot this year has been called into question, with states citing the 14th Amendment insurrection clause to argue his role in the Capitol riot disqualifies him from the presidency.

Go deeper: Where efforts to disqualify Trump from 2024 ballot stand

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