Election 2020

Trump: Hillary Started Birther Controversy; 'I Finished It'

Donald Trump attends a campaign event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – A large group of veterans and medal of honor recipients publicly endorsed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump at a campaign event where the real estate mogul unveiled his new hotel and announced that he believes President Obama was born in the United States.

Trump declined to take questions from the media despite numerous reporters shouting from the press area in the room.

In an interview with the Washington Post’s Robert Costa conducted Wednesday, Trump was asked whether he believes Obama was born in Hawaii. “I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

As other media outlets began to pick up the story, Trump teased the event on Friday at the new Trump International Hotel in D.C. as a “major announcement.”

Many cable television networks were broadcasting the event live and the room was packed with reporters ready to ask Trump questions after his announcement.

Before Trump came to the stage, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a campaign advisor, criticized Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for saying half of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables.” Flynn said Trump’s military supporters are “not deplorables.”

“These are individuals who care deeply for our country, and I will tell you we should continue to respect the idea of patriots,” he said.

Flynn said there is a “deficit” of leadership in the nation right now and called Clinton “unfit to be president.”

He also rejected concerns about Trump’s temperament.

“Temperament is actually a strength of his because his temperament is the temperament of winning. It’s the idea of winning,” he said.

Flynn argued that Clinton has a temperament issue, pointing to her exchange with a Navy veteran at a town hall meeting who questioned her handling of classified information.

“Tough question and she lost her temper, and that’s something you have to pay very close attention to. We cannot have that kind of judgment in the White House,” he said.

When Trump took the stage, he said it was an honor to have the first event at the new $200 million hotel involve Medal of Honor winners.

“Under budget and ahead of schedule. Isn’t that nice? No, it is a great honor. This is our brand-new ballroom. You only see a small piece of it because we have it broken down, but this is the hotel is completed,” he said. “We will be having our opening ceremony in October and it’s going to be something very special. It’s such an honor to have our first event.”

The rest of his remarks focused on thanking veterans for their service to the nation as well as the need to rebuild the military. Trump then turned the microphone over to Mike Thornton and Bob Patterson, two Medal of Honor recipients who endorsed Trump. To date, a total of 17 Medal of Honor recipients have endorsed Trump.

Veterans including Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney (USAF ret.) also delivered speeches.

“He knows how to take the handcuffs off of America’s economy,” McInerney said. “There’s only one candidate that can rebuild the United States military.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg said he believes “deeply” in Trump’s “temperament, his leadership, his vision and his guts to be our commander in chief.”

After a few other guest speakers finished, the billionaire businessman came back to the microphone and stated, “Not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the ‘birther’ controversy. I finished it. I finished it, if you know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

Trump then shook hands with the event participants and waved to the crowd. Reporters were shouting over the applause in the room, “Mr. Trump, take some questions!” Trump kept smiling and did not return to the podium.

Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook released a statement calling the press conference “disgraceful.”

“After five years of pushing a racist conspiracy theory into the mainstream, it was appalling to watch Trump appoint himself the judge of whether the president of the United States is American,” Mook said. “This sickening display shows more than ever why Donald Trump is totally unfit be president.”