Donald Trump fanned 'birther' flames for years

In an interview back in January, Donald Trump said he had his own theory about President Barack Obama's place of birth and said he was going to write a book about it. He now says rumors the president started life as a foreigner are not true. It comes after years of being the loudest voice of the so-called birther conspiracy.

In 2011, Trump began fanning the birther conspiracy flames on television, saying this to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly: "People have birth certificates. He doesn't have a birth certificate. ... Maybe it says he's a Muslim. I don't know. Maybe he doesn't want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn't born in this country, it's one of the great scams of all time."

By August 2012, he was promoting the un-true claims on Twitter, writing that an "extremely credible source" had told him Obama's birth certificate is a fraud. In 2014, another tweet called on digital thieves to hack the president's college records and check the place of birth.

"It was such an enormous distraction that after years of having served as president, the president actually went to the state of Hawaii and said 'you know what, release my long-form birth certificate, demonstrate I really am an American citizen,'" Montclair State University Political Science Professor Brigid Harrison said.

She added that Trump's relentless pursuit of the issue, which the GOP nominee now says is untrue, did help Trump appeal to the so-called Alt-Right wing of the Republican Party, a group that would eventually become a strong part of his base.

"There's no denying that the president's background -- both racially and ethnically -- is at the heart of these criticisms," Harrison said. "And so people in that alt-right movement -- particularly people who are xenophobic -- those were the folks to whom this was really and remains an important issue."

Trump now admits he was wrong, which Obama said he knew all along.

"We got other business to attend to," Obama said. "I was pretty confident where I was born. I think most people were as well."

Trump insisted Hillary Clinton's campaign back in 2008 initially started these rumors. Aides point to internal emails they say show it was part of her campaign strategy. But many critics say that assertion is untrue.