'She got paid a lot of money to write a book': Trump deflects questions on birtherism in Michelle Obama memoir

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

In her upcoming memoir, Michelle Obama writes that she will “never forgive” President Trump for pushing the so-called birther conspiracy that she believes put her family’s safety at risk.

Trump angrily responded to the former first lady Friday with an irrelevant swipe at former President Barack Obama over cuts in military spending. He did not apologize for or otherwise address the birtherism controversy.

In excerpts from her new book, “Becoming,” quoted Thursday by the Washington Post, Michelle Obama tears into Trump over the issue that launched his political career: spreading the lie that Barack Obama was born outside the country and was therefore ineligible to be president.

“The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she writes. “What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”

In an exchange with reporters as he left for Paris, where he’s scheduled to take part in a ceremony commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, Trump responded: “Oh, Michelle Obama said that, I haven’t seen it, I guess she wrote a book, she got paid a lot of money to write a book, and they always insist you come up with controversial — well, I’ll give you a little controversy back.

“I’ll never forgive him for what he did to our United States military by not funding it properly,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. “It was depleted. And everything was old and tired,” the president continued. “And I came in and I had to fix it, and I’m in the process of spending tremendous amounts of money. So I’ll never forgive him for what he did to our military. I’ll never forgive him for what he did in many other ways, which I’ll talk to you about in the future. What he did, because she talked about safety. What he did to our military made this country very unsafe.”

Michelle Obama, Barack Obama and Donald Trump (Photos: Mark Wilson/Getty Images, Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump and several other Republican candidates were critical of cuts to the U.S. military budget under Obama. But according to PolitiFact, the cuts reflected the Obama administration’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan — a deployment that Trump had loudly criticized during the campaign — and the failure of Congress to strike a deal on military spending.

And while Trump suggested Obama left him with “old and tired” military equipment, Harvard University professor Matthew Bunn noted that it was Obama who, in 2015, “laid out a $1 trillion plan to modernize every aspect of the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years.”

After accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Trump was forced to address his history of fueling the conspiracy theory at a hastily arranged press conference that was mostly an infomercial for his new hotel. At the very end, he gave a one-sentence acknowledgment that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” but offered no apology or explanation for why it had taken him five years to drop the issue.

The White House released Obama’s long-form birth certificate in 2011, proving that he was born in Hawaii.

“Who knows about Obama? Who knows, who knows? Who cares right now?” Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in January 2017. “I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I will write a book. I will do another book, and it will do very successfully.”

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