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Bringing birther back, Donald Trump questions Nikki Haley's right to be president

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley participates in fourth Republican Presidential Primary Debate on on December 6, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Justin Sullivan
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Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley participates in fourth Republican Presidential Primary Debate on on December 6, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

As Nikki Haley surges in Republican polls, former President Donald Trump has turned to his social media outlet where he is promoting a "birther" conspiracy theory against the former South Carolina governor.

Trump posted an article on his Truth Social account from a right wing outlet that claims Haley is ineligible to be president because her parents were not U.S. citizens when she was born.

While her parents became citizens after her birth, Haley was born in South Carolina. Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, being born in the United States makes her a natural-born citizen. She is therefore eligible to become president.

The Trump campaign has long said that he would target whoever was most threatening him in the Republican primaries. Haley has emerged as his top rival in recent weeks. A new University of New Hampshire/CNN poll shows Haley trailing Trump in the Granite State by just single digits.

This is not the first time, Trump has raised birther claims. For five years, Trump routinely questioned former President Barack Obama's birthplace – a lie that many saw as a racist dog whistle.

The Haley campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Famously, Trump also has a parent born outside of the U.S. His mother, Mary, is from Scotland.

The birther conspiracy about Haley has been picking up attention over the last several weeks among far right influencers, but Trump's reach has amplified it into the mainstream, said Welton Chang, CEO of Pyrra, a startup that tracks smaller social media platforms.

"Coming from him, there's additional credibility added to the message, even if it's not an explicit endorsement," Chang explained. "Having that many followers having that much influence in these networks, he's centrally connected.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.