The New York Times reports: Joseph Farah, a 61-year-old author, had long labored on the fringes of political life, publishing a six-part series claiming that soybeans caused homosexuality and fretting that “cultural Marxists” were plotting to destroy the country.
But in early 2011, he received the first of several calls from a Manhattan real estate developer who wanted to take one of his theories mainstream.
That developer, Donald J. Trump, told Mr. Farah that he shared his suspicion that President Obama might have been born outside the United States and that he was looking for a way to prove it.
“What can we do to get to the bottom of this?” Mr. Trump asked him. “What can we do to turn the tide?”
Mr. Farah recalled that Mr. Trump even proposed dispatching private investigators to Hawaii, Mr. Obama’s birthplace, to resolve the debate.
Mr. Trump’s eagerness to embrace the so-called birther idea — long debunked, and until then confined to right-wing conspiracy theorists — foreshadowed how, just five years later, Mr. Trump would bedevil his rivals in the Republican presidential primary race and upend the political system.
In the birther movement, Mr. Trump recognized an opportunity to connect with the electorate over an issue many considered taboo: the discomfort, in some quarters of American society, with the election of the nation’s first black president. He harnessed it for political gain, beginning his connection with the largely white Republican base that, in his 2016 campaign, helped clinch his party’s nomination. [Continue reading…]