Trump son: Dad 'started the conversation' about Obama birthplace

Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of starting the birther controversy but Trump's own son praised his dad for "starting the conversation" about where Barack Obama was born.

Eric Trump's comments came during a series of previously unpublished interviews from 2014, in which he and his older brother, Donald Jr., compared him to Winston Churchill, bragged that he was paid $2 million to have dinner with the mother of a construction contractor, and insisted there were "hundreds" of billionaires who would "take a bullet" for the Republican presidential candidate.

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In the interviews, conducted by author Michael D'Antonio for his book "The Truth About Trump" and provided to NBC News, the Trump sons struggled to defend their father's penchant for hyperbole and his "investigation" of Obama's birthplace. Donald Jr. suggested that he wasn't allowed to talk about Obama's origins because of political correctness: "I'm the white privileged son of a rich guy."

Birthers & Media Bias

Asked to explain his father's championing of claims that Obama was foreign-born, and thus ineligible for the presidency, Donald Jr. contended that his birther probe was more of a metaphor for media bias than an actual effort to prove Obama was an illegitimate office-holder.

"Whatever he wants to do, he's earned the right to say it, and frankly, right wrong or indifferent, whether people agree or not, I'm glad that someone actually has the proverbial fortitude — to use a word less vulgar than I'd like to go with it — to actually say, 'I don't care if it's popular,'" Trump Jr. told D'Antonio. "This is what I think."

"When you really break it down," continued Trump Jr., "what he's saying is, 'Hey, this is a guy that's been carried by the media. There are a lot of unanswered questions that anyone else would have to answer and we expect that they answer, and he hasn't for X, Y Z politically correct reason, and I don't believe that.'"

"I think what he's really getting at is, 'Hey, there's a broader picture here in that this guy's been given a, he's playing by a different set of rules or standards than anyone else historically, than anyone who's going to compete against him for the 2012 race.'"

When the biographer suggested that his father's birther campaign offended some voters, Donald Jr. said he understood that it did, but blamed a climate of political correctness. This portion of the conversation was previously reported by Buzzfeed.

"Don't we want politicians to have opinions about things that aren't swayed by public opinion? The problem is that everyone's trying to appease everyone, with 300 million people and every little opinion, and God forbid we offend the one person of the 300 million, and I don't know how you make a decision...I appreciate someone who has the moral conviction to stand by a belief, or even question it.

"What's wrong with questioning something these days? Whether it be political spectrum, across a racial divide, it's increasingly difficult for — and this is coming from, I'm the white privileged son of a rich guy. (laughs) There is a point where I'm not even allowed to have this conversation in America today, which again, I can have it, but it's a no-win proposition for me. It's the proverbial, 'Do you beat your wife?' question: No matter how you answer, if you don't take it far enough, you're a horrible despicable individual, or if you take it too far then you're — it's interesting."

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CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Eric Trump on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protestors and members of the media. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/WireImage)
Donald Trump's daughter Tiffany speaks to delegates on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. About 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland this week for the Republican National Convention, at which Donald Trump is expected to be formally nominated to run for the US presidency in November. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Donald Trump, Jr. addresses the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Donald Trump, Jr. addresses the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Delegates from New York and Donald Trump's family including Donald, Jr., Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany celebrate after the nominating process for the state of New York during the second day of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Tiffany Trump leaves the stage on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protestors and members of the media. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/WireImage)
Eric Trump (R), son of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and his wife Lara Yunaska applaud at the end of Donald Trump Jr's speech on the second day of the Republican National Convention (RNC), July 19, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Delegates from New York and Donald Trump's family including Donald, Jr., Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany celebrate after the nominating process for the state of New York during the second day of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Ivanka Trump on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protestors and members of the media. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/WireImage)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Tiffany Trump speaks at the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protestors and members of the media. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/WireImage)
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Younger brother Eric credited his father with "starting a conversation" about Obama's birthplace that would not have taken place without him.

"There's always, I think, a moral to the story," he told D'Antonio. "I think with the birthers it's, 'Okay, well, then, just prove it.' Meaning these people are going out saying that which a lot of people were at the time. 'Then just show us. Just be transparent. You're the leader of the free world, be transparent.' There are underlying themes to this, and in fact, he has done his best to start the conversation that was unwilling to be had before. Now that conversation might flush itself out in one of several different ways. But at least the conversation is being had."

President Obama released the short form of his Hawaii birth certificate in 2008 and the long form in April 2012. Earlier in April 2012, Donald Trump announced he had asked investigators to find Obama's birth certificate. Last month, Trump admitted that Obama was born in the U.S. — but repeated his earlier false claimthat Clinton had "started the birther controversy."

The $2 Million Dinner

In another passage from the transcripts, Donald Jr. recalled an incident when his father was taking bids from concrete contractors for a job on a Trump property — and one of them made an offer his dad didn't refuse.

"He gets on the phone with one of these guys, and he goes, 'Mr. Trump, I'll take $2 million off my contract — this is an $8 million contract, so it's 20 percent [sic] — 'I'll take $2 million off, but I want something from you. I want you to come have dinner with my mother, with me, at my mom's house.'"

The younger Trump said his father asked the man why he was willing to forego so much money.

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You could not ask for a better keynote to a @GOPconvention than @IvankaTrump cc @realDonaldTrump #RNCinCLE
Ivanka Trump doesn't vote by party labels. She votes her conscience. And that's... good? I think? #RNCinCLE
Ivanka. Outstanding. I do believe this is the birth of the next Presidential dynasty. The next woman for the White House won't be Clinton
Why can't Ivanka run???
in the 18 months i spent around donald trump i never once saw ivanka trump in his office and i never heard him once mention her name.
Ivanka 2024! #RNCinCLE
Dear @IvankaTrump, Can you show us the equal pay for women part of the @GOP platform? We have time… Sincerely, The Voters
This speech is great. What Ivanka is saying is great. But her dad's running. And her dad doesn't believe in any of this.
Ivanka Trump did not mention Hillary Clinton once during her RNC speech.
Ah anyone watching has to admit @IvankaTrump is killing it. #RNC
Equal pay and childcare. Ivanka Trump's intro of her dad at the RNC is ripped right from the Dems playbook. Can this close the gender gap?
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According to Eric, the contractor explained to the senior Trump that if he showed up for dinner it would prove to his mom he was successful, that he'd made it. "And of course," said Eric, "[my father] did it. He probably had a great meal.....I was like, 'Wow, that was $2 million.' I don't care who you are. No one is going to get that nod.'"

Trump Jr. did not identify the contractor and D'Antonio said he did not know the identity of the man. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the incident.

Television's "Number One" Show

Eric Trump said that his father believes what he says about his businesses, even when it's not factually accurate.

"When you talk about, let's call it hyperbole — he's not doing it to create faux demand," he told D'Antonio. "He really believes that these things that he's creating — and that he spends seven hours debating over where to put a palm tree on a golf course — he really believes that these things are the greatest within that market...his passion is so real, and so there, that it's not hyperbole. He genuinely believes that this is what it is and the efforts that he's put in, it is what it is."

"We never stop dumping money into our properties and that's why they're always...you can go into — and I urge you to do this — if you go out and see our property in Las Vegas or Chicago, walk into one of the mechanical rooms," he told D'Antonio. "You could eat off the floor."

D'Antonio asked about Trump's previous claims that his reality show "The Apprentice" was the most popular show on television.

"He was proclaiming that 'The Apprentice' was the number one show when it was like number 73," D'Antonio said. "What is that?"

"He still looks at it as being number-one," Trump's son replied. "He looks at it as the best. He compares it to other shows that have been really hot, and perhaps exceeded that, but three seasons later and they're out. They're flashes in the pan. He looks at the show and says, 'It's still getting renewed.' And because of the sponsorship dollars, it's still making the most money of all of these other shows. A, it's a reality show, so the cost side is limited; B, because of the product placement that he's been able to do, he's getting a lot.

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Donald Trump, Jr., son of US President Donald Trump, attends the 139th White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. arrives to speak during the second session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Donald Trump Jr. pumps his fist after speaking about his father, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the second day at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa attend the second day session at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Tiffany Trump. daughter of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, sits near her half-brother Donald Trump Jr. (C) during evening speeches at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) smiles as his son Donald Trump Jr. speaks for a moment at a campaign rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk
Donald Trump Jr, son of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, tours the arena at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
Donald Trump Jr. (R) kicks balloons into the crowd as Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and vice presidential nominee Governor Mike Pence stand with their families onstage at the end of the final session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump Jr with his children arrives at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, U.S., after Easter weekend in Palm Beach, Florida, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Donald Trump Jr. (R) makes remarks at a press conference while Joo Kim Tiah (C) the CEO of TA Global, the owner and developer of Trump International Hotel and Tower Vancouver, looks on with Eric Danziger the CEO of Trump Hotels (L) during the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick
U.S. President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump, Jr., watch children roll Easter Eggs at 139th annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool
BOZEMAN, MT - APRIL 22: Donald Trump Jr. speaks at a rally for Republican Greg Gianforte as he campaigns for the Montana House of Representatives seat vacated by the appointment of Ryan Zinke to head the Department of Interior on April 22, 2017 in Bozeman, Montana. Gianforte is running against democrat Rob Quist in the special election to be held on May 25, 2017. (Photo by William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images)
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"And he's able to say, 'No other show can compete with this,'" the younger Trump said.

"As a business it IS the number-one show. So he knows there's something ahead of it in the ratings that week or that hour, but it's still very dominant. It's a force."

Bullets and Billionaires

Eric Trump acknowledged that his father can be a polarizing figure, but said that throughout history that's been a common theme among great political leaders and captains of industry.

Citing the success of "The Apprentice," Eric wondered aloud, "What is it that makes incredible men and women, what is it that makes people fascinated by incredible figureheads across history? Look at Rockefeller. Look at Carnegie. Look at J.P. Morgan. Look at Teddy Roosevelt. What causes that? These guys were all larger than life. Look at Churchill. Some of these guys weren't the most politically correct, but people loved them for some reason and they were interested in them. They were fascinated by them. I think in most cases, people were actually also jealous of them.

"I think there's a tremendous amount of jealousy."

Still, he explained, "I also think there's a tremendous amount of billionaires who — I can go through my contacts and his and I can count hundreds off the top of my head — who would take a bullet for him and our family."

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for the names of those billionaires.

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