Republican senator says he wishes party had stood up to birtherism

Racist conspiracy theory was ‘particularly ugly’

Rachael Revesz
Sunday 06 August 2017 18:30 BST
Flake's new book is called 'Conscience of a Conservative'
Flake's new book is called 'Conscience of a Conservative'

A Republican Senator has said he wished the Republican Party had done more to fight birtherism, the racist conspiracy theory surrounding former President Barack Obama’s birthplace.

Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was advertising his new book about conservatism on NBC, was asked if the GOP was afraid to put country over party.

“Well, I do think that we've seen more people ready to stand up. And I wish that we, as a party, would have stood up, for example, when the birtherism thing was going along. A lot of people did stand up but not enough,” Mr Flake said.

He added that birtherism “was particularly ugly.”

Donald Trump propagated rumours that Mr Obama was not born in the US, and joined calls to see his birth certificate.

The theory was supported by his wife, Melania Trump, during a television interview.

Last September, two months before being elected as President, Mr Trump said at an event: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.”

Mr Flake also told NBC that he regretted the chants of “lock her up” at rallies and campaign events, referring to Hillary Clinton, and which were encouraged by Mr Trump’s proposal to hire a “special prosecutor” to investigate her alleged misuse of her personal email server.

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“We shouldn’t be the party for jailing your political opponents and anybody at that rally, anybody at those rallies, ought to stand up and say, ‘That’s inappropriate, we shouldn’t be doing that’, and I wish we, as a party, and elected officials, would do more of that.”

Mr Flake has been a longtime critic of Mr Trump, even calling last year for him to withdraw his bid for the White House and claiming that “America deserves far better”.

In October he tweeted: “Republicans should not be okay with @realDonaldTrump threatening to jail his opponent after the election. That is not who we are.”

He also tweeted that Mr Trump’s suggestion during the campaign that he might not accept the election results, when the polls were leaning in Ms Clinton’s favour, as “beyond the pale”.

In his new book, Conscience of a Conservative, Mr Flake argued that his party was in denial about the first few months of Mr Trump’s presidency.

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