Donald Trump on birtherism, employs the 'black friend' defense

Faced with questions over whether his obsession with President Barack Obama’s birth certificate might be based on Obama being black, Donald Trump on Saturday employed a novel defense: he can’t be racist, he just picked a black guy as the Celebrity Apprentice.

The black guy in question is Arsenio Hall, the former late night talk show host and comedian who won  this season’s Celebrity Apprentice.

From NBC’s First Read on Friday:

Speaking at the North Carolina GOP Convention, Trump praised Romney for his business experience and promise to stand up against China and fight for American economic interests.  But the business mogul also focused a portion of his speech on his questions about where President Obama was born.  It is the reason why on Tuesday, when Romney earned the 1,144 delegates necessary to secure his party’s nomination, much of the news cycle was devoted to his decision to appear with Trump at a fundraiser that day. …

… And during his address, Trump again used his appearance as a platform to question the president’s birth certificate, the reason he has branded himself as a controversial figure on the national political scene.  Calling for the president to release his college records, Trump said, “There is one line called place of birth, I’d like to see what he said..Perhaps it’s going to say Hawaii, perhaps it’s going to say Kenya.”

He dismissed that his motives were based in race by citing his recent decision to award African American actor Arsenio Hall the winner of his reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“Somebody said, ‘Oh, because I brought up the birth certificate, I’m a racist.  I said, ‘How can I be a racist, I just picked Arsenio Hall,” said Trump.

Donald has previously informed us that he has “a great relationship with ‘the blacks.’” But does picking a reality TV show winner really get Donald a free pass on birtherism, which many people connect directly to racism? And what of Donald’s unending skepticism that Obama could have possibly been qualified to get into Harvard Law School, mainly because Trump has friends whose kids couldn’t get in? Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard, and edited the school’s prestigious Law Review, while Donald, well… his son-in-law actually did get into Harvard under questionable circumstances. What else, other than the notion that Obama didn’t earn his opportunities — but rather, got them because he is African-American — could The Donald have in mind?

No word yet on how Arsenio Hall feels about being Trump’s proverbial “black friend.”

Related: Should black celebrities boycott Donald Trump?