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Are Donald Trump and his fellow 'birthers' racist?

Donald Trump faces a backlash from those who see the “birther” movement as a new form of racism, which a new study seems to confirm. Trump has problems with conservatives too.

By Staff writer / April 30, 2011

Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of 600 people during a gathering of Republican women's groups Thursday in Las Vegas. Trump's flirtation with a White House bid continued that night with a lavish reception at the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas.

Julie Jacobson/AP

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Is Donald Trump a racist? Probably not, although there was that odd moment the other day when he said, "I have a great relationship with the blacks.”

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“The blacks?” Hmm. To Frank James, who blogs at NPR, Trump was “sounding a bit like Archie Bunker.”

The most famous promoter of birtherism – the assertion that Barack Obama wasn’t really born in the United States and therefore is ineligible to be president – faces a growing backlash from those who see the whole birther movement as an “insidious new form of 21st-century racism,” as Clarence B. Jones, scholar in residence at Stanford University, put it the other day on Huffington Post.

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"It's all fun, it's all a circus, it's all a rodeo, until it starts to smack of racism,” TV host David Letterman scolded, speaking specifically of Trump. “And then it's no longer fun.”

"If he comes back on this show, and I am not sure we want him back on this show under these circumstances, he ought to be prepared to apologize just for that kind of behavior,” Letterman added.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine and author of an Obama biography, wrote this week: “To do what Trump has done … is a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering.”

“The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning,” Remnick wrote. “Let’s say what is plainly true … these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father.”

A new "Southern strategy?"

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (best known for fighting the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations) says that even if birthers are not racists, “they are shameless opportunists perfectly willing to exploit racism for their own personal benefit, proponents of a second Republican ‘Southern strategy.’ ”

“The continuing conspiracy theories about Obama – from his country of birth to his religion to his relationships with the radical left – come from people who are essentially motivated by antipathy toward black people,” Potok writes in his Huffington Post column.

Can latent racial prejudice be documented as being at the heart of – or at least an important element in – the birther movement?

As reported in USA Today this week, a study led by Eric Hehman of the University of Delaware in the March Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggests so.

As part of the study, 295 students were asked a series of questions used to gauge prejudice. Other questions addressed Obama’s performance as president as well as his “Americanism.” Those with a greater tendency toward racism rated Obama lower.

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