In a recent interview with Axios, Jared Kushner refused to call his father-in-law Donald Trump‘s attacks on President Barack Obama‘s U.S. citizenship racist. When he was questioned about whether the birtherism scandal that Trump instigated was a prejudiced act, Kushner dodged the question, stating instead that he “wasn’t really involved in that.” Even when the interviewer directly asked him twice more if birtherism was racist, Kushner avoided saying “yes” to what should have been a simple question.

The birtherism scandal began during Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008. In essence, proponents of birtherism, often called birthers, doubted that Obama was really a citizen of the United States. The birthers began to demand that Obama show his birth certificate to the public, even though the state of Hawaii, where he was born, had confirmed that he was a legal resident. Even after the office of the Hawaii Attorney General denied any allegations of Obama being born in Kenya, birthers such as Trump continued to claim that the entire thing was a conspiracy. It was widely thought that these allegations were based largely on racism, as the only factor that differentiated Obama from other politicians, whose citizenship was never in doubt, was that Obama was black.

When Obama released his birth certificate in 2011, Trump congratulated himself, saying  “I am really honored and I am really proud, that I was able to do something that nobody else could do.” Even after his citizenship had been confirmed, Trump still hounded Obama, asking him to release his passport and college applications.

In 2016, Trump dredged up the birtherism scandal once again, using it as a way to attack the establishment and the Democrats. His racist birther remarks on the campaign trail are viewed as the beginning of the president’s attempts to appeal to the more extreme faction of Republican voters. The success of this approach can be seen in the president’s continued use of conspiracy theories to retain the loyalty of his constituency.

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