Asked about the birther conspiracy theory after defending President Trump as "absolutely" not a racist, his son-in-law said, "That was a long time ago"

By Adam Carlson
June 03, 2019 08:19 AM
Jared Kushner (left) and President Donald Trump in 2007
CHANCE YEH /Patrick McMullan via Getty

In a rare interview on Sunday, President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner, categorically rejected the characterization that Trump is racist.

However, Kushner repeatedly declined to comment on Trump’s notorious support of the birther conspiracy that former President Barack Obama was not actually born in the U.S.

In the years before he successfully ran for president, Trump’s most infamous political act was spreading the theory, including offering to donate millions to charity if Obama would confirm the details of his American birth.

“He [Obama] grew up and nobody knew him,” Trump said in March 2011, according to the New York Times. “The whole thing is very strange.”

Trump also purported to have hired private investigators to dig into the issue.

Appearing Sunday night on the political news show Axios on HBO, Kushner, 38, said the president was “absolutely not” racist.

“I know who the president is and I have not seen anything in him that is racist,” said Kushner.

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“You can’t not be a racist for 69 years then run for a president and be a racist,” he said. “And what I’ll say is that when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country.”

Husband to Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, Kushner is one of the most influential White House aides and one of the least visible, not often appearing on camera. (As noted by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, Kushner “often talks to press but rarely on [the] record.”)

After defending his father-in-law in the Axios interview, Kushner was asked multiple times if he thought birtherism was racist and whether he wished the president had not supported it.

“Umm, look I wasn’t really involved in that,” Kushner replied at first.

Asked again, he said, “Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that. … That was a long time ago.”

Kushner also declined to comment on the president’s call, during the campaign, for all Muslims to be banned from entering the United States.

“I think he’s doing a lot of great things for the country and that’s what I’m proud of,” Kushner said.

Former President Barack Obama (left) and President Donald Trump
Mark Wilson/Getty; SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

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Trump regularly discussed the birther conspiracy theory in 2011, according to the Times. He did not disavow it for years.

In September 2016, in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, he at last acknowledged he had been wrong to claim Obama might be lying about his birthplace.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” he said. “Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

Obama told reporters then, according to the Times: “I was pretty confident about where I was born. I think most people were as well. My hope would be that the presidential election reflects more serious issues than that.”

In her memoir last year, former First Lady Michelle Obama said Trump’s birtherism was “crazy and mean-spirited … its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed.”

“But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she wrote.

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Earlier this year, New York City Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told 60 Minutes there was “no question” that the president was a racist.

“When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy. When you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident, where neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it’s night and day,” she said.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump have traveled to the U.K. this week for a state visit, including a banquet at Buckingham Palace. Kushner, Ivanka and other senior aides have joined them.

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