A group of black ministers has lashed out at potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, accusing him of spreading false and racially-tinged claims that President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.
Trump, the billionaire/reality TV show host/celebrity, has raised questions about the validity of Obama's Hawaii birth certificate in magazine interviews, on television news shows, and at a recent convention of conservative Republicans.
"Our president came out of nowhere," Trump told the convention. "I'll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don't know who he is. Crazy."
In a statement, the National Black Church Initiative said Trumps remarks "are extraordinarily misinformed and speak to a deeper and more insidious problem - racism."
The organization, a coalition of 34,000 churches, 15 denominations representing 15.7 African-Americans, said it has had disagreements with Obama over the years - largely over gay and lesbian issues - but it stands squarely behind the president and "in accordance with widely accepted facts, acknowledge his lawful citizenship."
"Those who remain skeptical are unsuccessfully hiding their racism under a veil of conspiracy theories and gossip," the organization said in its statement. "So, to those who continue to undermine the legitimacy of our president's citizenship - we see you for what you are."
The Rev. Anthony Evans, NBCI's president, said he's seeking a meeting with Trump to hear the billionaire out. If the NBCI is unsatisfied with what Trump says, the group may call for a boycott of NBC's "The Apprentice," Trump's reality show, and the program's sponsors, Evans said.
"I strongly feel that Donald Trump is using race to further a divisive agenda - an agaenda that has no place in modern American political culture," Evans said.
Trump's remarks, however, appear to have given him some political traction. Some tea party leaders say Trump's so-called "birther" remarks have made him appealing among tea party members. Trump finished second in a recent poll of New Hampshire voters behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.