Romney: A Reckoning by McKay Coppins:
As Romney deliberated through the spring of 2011, the climate on the right only seemed to grow more fevered. Glenn Beck was riling up his viewers with predictions of a “Great Depression times 100” and hyperinflation on par with the Weimar Republic. Fox News was running stories suggesting that Obama had deployed the Secret Service to monitor the conservative network. And a bizarre conspiracy theory about the president’s birthplace was beginning to gain traction—boosted by an unlikely spokesman.
Donald Trump had begun popping up on political talk shows to muse about whether Barack Obama might perhaps be a secret Muslim born in Kenya who’d defrauded American voters to get elected to the presidency. This theory had been kicking around the fringes of U.S. political discourse for years and had already been debunked, but suddenly it—and Trump—were everywhere. On The View: “I want him to show his birth certificate. There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.” On Fox News: “He’s spent millions of dollars trying to get away from this issue.… A lot of facts are emerging and I’m starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country.” On The Laura Ingraham Show: “He doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me—and I have no idea if this is bad for him or not, but perhaps it would be—that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’ ” On the Today show: “If he wasn’t born in this country, which is a real possibility… then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics.”
Romney had not spoken to Trump in years, and he was surprised to see the Celebrity Apprentice host so hard up for publicity that he was reduced to pandering to the conservative fever swamps. But he chalked it up to another Trump rebrand, and put it out of his mind—choosing not to dwell on the unsettling fact that Trump was making gains in several hypothetical primary polls, or that half of all Republican voters believed Obama was born outside the U.S. This was a sideshow, Romney told himself, and he refused to pay it any attention.