By Nick Gass
September 16, 2016
President Barack Obama's race had nothing to do with Donald Trump's questioning of his U.S. citizenship, the executive director of the GOP nominee's National Diversity Coalition said Friday, hours after Trump admitted that the president was born in America.
"Mr. Trump has been a candidate since last year June. He's a private citizen before that," Bruce LeVell told MSNBC's Hallie Jackson during a contentious interview, claiming that the "Hillary campaign surrogates, whoever you call it, started this nasty whisper campaign. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton started this. And unfortunately it perpetuated into this."
Jackson interrupted, "That's not true. The Clinton campaign—Hillary Clinton in 2008 did not start the birther movement," characterizing the source as a "fringe element of some Clinton supporters." The network played clips of Trump questioning Obama’s citizenship in the years since the White House released his long-form birth certificate in 2011, after months of prodding led by Trump.
"So you said he was a private citizen. Because he was a private citizen when he said that. Doesn't it matter now?" Jackson asked.
LeVell responded by alluding to the case of Alan Keyes, Obama's 2004 opponent in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois, who drew scrutiny for relocating from his home state of Maryland to run for the seat after the previous Republican candidate Jack Ryan withdrew amid scandal with less than three months until Election Day.
"They go down the list, they go down the list of where you live, your residency, where do you live. When you have an opponent, where you are going to run, it’s natural to vet elected officials based on where they live, where they’re from. It is not uncommon," LeVell said, pointing to the vetting of George W. Bush's military service as another example that "went on and on."
"Let me ask you this. I think there are serious questions about what Donald Trump did over the last five years was actually vetting. I want to ask in your view his attempts to essentially delegitimize the first African-American president of the United States for five years," Jackson said, echoing criticism from Clinton and Democrats. "How is that the same as vetting?"
"Well, first of all, I will tell you as a personal friend of Mr. Trump, this is the way I look at it. Mr. Trump wouldn't care if you were green, purple or whatever," LeVell responded. "If there is any question of who you are in Senate, Congress, president, whatever you are, if he calls into question there is something not legitimate as it relates to you being qualified, whoever, no matter what color you are or where you are from, that's the Mr. Trump that I know."
Jackson followed up, "So why didn't he demand the birth certificates of President Bush or President Clinton?"
"The color thing did not come from Mr. Trump. The color thing came from the Clinton campaign. It's coming very aggressively now because they are in trouble. Their polls are sinking," LeVell remarked as Jackson retorted, "As we have established already in this interview, that was not Hillary Clinton's campaign who pushed that in 2008, and I want to ask you this again. Why not — if you are saying it wasn't about the color of President Obama's skin, why didn't Donald Trump go after the birth certificates of prior presidents?"
LeVell then said he didn't know "what was going on when he was running or thought about running."
"I just know what I know since I have been involved with this — with Trump being as the nominee, as being our next president of the United States," LeVell continued, going on to note questions about John McCain's birth in the Panama Canal Zone and Ted Cruz's eligibility for the presidency because of his birth in Canada.
"On and on and on. So this is not a race thing. It never has been," LeVell said. "And I wish the American people wouldn't buy into that, because the Clinton campaign's in trouble. Our polls are climbing higher and higher. This is that scare, boogeyman tactic trying to go into the general to keep African-Americans like myself from not wanting to vote for Donald Trump. It is absolutely false. There is no proof of Mr. Trump tying, you know, this birther movement to President Obama being African-American, et cetera. Has nothing to do with it whatsoever. It's totally false"
Jackson responded, "We will let the facts speak for themselves on that one."
LeVell would not be the last member of the group to hit the airwaves in support of Trump’s statement.
Brunell Donald-Kyei, the group’s vice chair of diversity outreach and two-time voter for Obama, shared her appreciation for Trump’s brief remarks on the same network in the next hour.
“I believe that Donald Trump did today what so many people were waiting for him to do and that is to give our president the respect that he deserves and he told him, he told the world that Obama was born in the United States, period,” Donald-Kyei told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts.
“You know, sometimes, you know, we, as people, we're not perfect. You have people, you get into it with and then you know, everybody apologizes differently. I've had people I've gotten into it with. We apologize with words, sometimes hugs,” she explained. “I think what Donald Trump did today was a hand shake. It was a verbal handshake to our president.”
Roberts subsequently grilled Donald-Kyei on her praise of Trump given past support of Obama and his lack of outreach to organizations like the NAACP, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists or from the National Urban League.
“What I will tell you is that Donald Trump is running for the president of the United States and he has stated his first and No. 1 priority is the American people,” Donald-Kyei said.
Roberts remarked, “He’s stated his No. 1 priority is the wall.”
“And you know what?” Donald-Kyei responded. “Let me tell you something, I am an American citizen and I'm telling you, there are literally citizens, Americans starving, hurting, hungry while there are persons who are in our country who are here illegally, who are eating and doing well while Americans are suffering. And the interesting thing, too, that wall, illegal immigrant is not a race. It’s a crime, OK? It is a crime. And the only, Mexicans are not the only ones coming through Mexico illegally. Let’s, let’s get that the clear. So what I'm telling you, these are all distractions.”
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com