Profile: Ben Smith
Ben Smith was a participant or observer in the following events:
Author Jerome Corsi, who has made a number of disproven and debunked claims concerning President Obama’s citizenship (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, and October 9, 2008), now claims that he has “proof” Obama’s attendance and exemplary performance at Harvard Law School were engineered by a Saudi prince through the auspices of an African-American Muslim radical. He points to Obama’s decision not to release his college transcripts as circumstantial evidence (see September 11, 2008), saying that decision “prevents resolution of a continuing controversy over whether radical Islamic influences promoted his admission and financed his legal education there.” The “continuing controversy” centers on a lawyer named Percy Sutton, who claims that Islamic radical Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour, “one of the world’s wealthiest men,” asked him to write a letter of recommendation to Harvard Law School for then relatively unknown Barack Obama. Sutton says al-Mansour, a Saudi citizen, introduced him to Obama, and says al-Mansour was raising money for Obama to attend Harvard. Sutton says al-Mansour was a “principal adviser” to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who, Sutton says, actually engineered Obama’s acceptance to Harvard. According to Sutton, he was told in a letter from al-Mansour: “There’s a young man that has applied to Harvard. I know that you have a few friends left there because you used to go up there to speak. Would you please write a letter in support of him?” Sutton says he did write the letter, and told friends at Harvard, “I thought there was going to be a genius that was going to be available and I certainly hoped they would treat him kindly.” The Obama campaign denied the story during the 2008 presidential campaign. Sutton, who is in his 80s and apparently suffers from some sort of senile dementia or memory loss that precludes him being contacted by Corsi or other members of the press, has made his allegations in a YouTube video that Corsi cites as his “proof.” In 2008, Politico reporter Ben Smith contacted al-Mansour, who confirmed Sutton was “a dear friend, his health is not good” and said he’s sure Sutton wrote a letter for someone else, “and he got it confused.” Corsi has requested that the White House release all of Obama’s law school records to “resolve the issue.” Al-Mansour, Corsi claims, was originally Don Warden, a member of the 1960s Black Panthers. [WorldNetDaily, 7/21/2009]
Sarah Palin holds her youngest child, Trig, for the cameras. [Source: Hollywood Gossip]Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008, writes on her Facebook page that the Democrats’ health care reform package would result in a government “death panel” that would kill her baby, Trig. Her child was born with Down Syndrome. Palin writes: “Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no!… And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.” Palin also commends Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for warning the nation about President Obama’s “Orwellian” health care adviser: “Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff [Rahm Emanuel], in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.” [TPMDC, 8/7/2009; Time, 8/8/2009]
Inspired by Debunked Claims from Industry Lobbyist - Palin’s warning about government “death panels” is inspired by debunked warnings from industry lobbyist Betsy McCaughey and a variety of Republican lawmakers and conservative talk show hosts about the reform proposals’ implicit agenda to kill older Americans faster (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, and July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009). Politico’s Ben Smith writes: “As nonpartisan sources note, the [proposal] deals with medical practitioners helping individuals prepare living wills, powers of attorney, and the like. It’s a long ways from there to a ‘death panel’ where bureaucrats decide who lives or dies.” [Politico, 8/7/2009]
Countering Palin's Assertions - Progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow says of Palin’s assertions: “There is no Obama death panel. There’s no plan to kill old people. There’s no plan to kill off any people who aren’t productive enough. There’s no plan to kill off any of Sarah Palin’s children. And if we were actually talking about health care instead of waddling through this free-floating morass of factless partisan rage and corporate opportunism, it would occur to someone to notice that the provision being considered by Congress that has Sarah Palin ranting about Obama death panels and the death of her own children was introduced by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia (see August 10, 2009). And it’s not about killing old people. It’s about making it easier for old people to create living wills. A similar provision was introduced by another Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine. This is a Republican idea.” [MSNBC, 8/10/2009] Days later, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) tells an audience: “It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that there’s these end-of-life provisions, these death panels. Quite honestly, I’m so offended at that terminology because it absolutely isn’t [in the bill]. There is no reason to gin up fear in the American public by saying things that are not included in the bill.… There are things that are in this bill that are bad enough that we don’t need to be making things up.” [Anchorage Daily News, 8/11/2009]
Christine O’Donnell. [Source: Fox News]Republican pundit Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, discusses the recent primary victory of US Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (R-DE—see September 13, 2010) with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Palin advises O’Donnell to use Fox News, and only Fox, to get her message out. O’Reilly notes that GOP strategist Karl Rove, who has been critical of O’Donnell’s candidacy, has said O’Donnell is unprepared to talk to moderate voters about her often-extremist positions, and thusly, her staff has been reluctant to appear on news programs such as his O’Reilly Factor. Palin says this is the wrong course, and compares O’Donnell’s campaign to her own 2008 campaign for vice president when her advisers told her to stay away from the media. “She’s going to have to learn very quickly to dismiss what her handlers want,” Palin says. “Go with her gut, get out there speak to the American people, speak through Fox News.” [Wilmington News Journal, 9/16/2010] Shortly thereafter, O’Donnell cancels a scheduled appearance on the September 19 edition of CBS’s Face the Nation, with no explanation. “They just emailed us and said she needed to cancel,” says the show’s executive producer, Mary Hager. Politico’s Ben Smith speculates that O’Donnell “may now be heeding the advice bestowed earlier this week by Sarah Palin: ‘Speak through Fox.’” Smith also notes that O’Donnell has drawn fire for her extreme comments on a variety of subjects, from condom use to her stated belief that scientists have inserted human brains into mice (see November 15, 2007). [Politico, 9/16/2010]
The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), responding to news of a second million-dollar donation to Republican causes by the parent corporation of Fox News (see June 24, 2010 and After and September 30, 2010), says that the donations may shift the way Fox News is perceived by the rest of the mainstream media and perhaps even the public. CJR’s Zachary Roth writes, “Until now, the rest of the media has largely treated Fox News as one of its own,” with other reporters defending Fox when it has been criticized by Obama officials and others. But, Roth writes, in making the donation, Fox News’s parent corporation News Corp. “has largely dropped the pretense” of being anything except a partisan enterprise. Roth notes that Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey has written of a “new order” in which “Fox’s supposed news personalities—not just its prime-time opinion makers—routinely pound away at conservative talking points” (see September 29, 2010). And he cites Ben Smith of Politico, an online news provider often considered to tilt conservative, as advising fellow reporters to cover Fox “as the political actors they often are,” adding that “reporters don’t have to take Fox at its word on its own ‘balance’ any more than we have to take a politician at his word.” Roth concludes: “Wringing one’s hands at the decline of ‘objective’ journalism misses the point, because Fox can and will continue to do what it wants. What’s important, if only for the sake of simple accuracy, is simply that Fox comes to be seen for what it is. And it’s at least possible that this week’s news will start to make that happen.” [Politico, 9/29/2010; Columbia Journalism Review, 10/1/2010]
Billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump, who for weeks has accused President Obama of not being a US citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, and March 23, 2011), releases an “official” copy of his own birth certificate, allowing the conservative news blog NewsMax to post it on its Web site. “It took me one hour to get my birth certificate,” he tells a NewsMax reporter. “It’s inconceivable that, after four years of questioning, the president still hasn’t produced his birth certificate. I’m just asking President Obama to show the public his birth certificate. Why’s he making an issue out of this?… Ronald Reagan, George Bush have produced their birth certificates. Why doesn’t Obama?” However, Trump releases the same kind of “short form” certificate the Obama campaign released three years ago (see June 13, 2008). His, which shows he was born on June 14, 1946 in Jamaica Hospital in Queens, New York, is a “hospital certificate of birth.” The next day, he provides an official “long form” copy of the certificate to ABC News. There are few, if any, discernible differences between the two. Trump issues the second copy along with a statement from his staffer Thuy Colayco, saying: “A ‘birth certificate’ and a ‘certificate of live birth’ are in no way the same thing, even though in some cases they use some of the same words. One officially confirms and records a newborn child’s identity and details of his or her birth, while the other only confirms that someone reported the birth of a child. Also, a ‘certificate of live birth’ is very easy to get because the standards are much lower, while a ‘birth certificate’ is only gotten through a long and detailed process wherein identity must be proved beyond any doubt. If you had only a certificate of live birth, you would not be able to get a proper passport from the Post Office or a driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Therefore, there is very significant difference between a ‘certificate of live birth’ and a ‘birth certificate’ and one should never be confused with the other.” Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), the former governor of Minnesota and a possible 2012 candidate for president, cautions Trump not to get too involved in the “birther” conspiracy theory, telling an MSNBC reporter: “I, for one, do not believe we should be raising that issue. I think President Obama was born in the United States.” [NewsMax, 3/28/2011; ABC News, 3/29/2011; Business Insider, 3/29/2011] The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters points out that Colayco’s statement that a citizen could “not be able to get a proper passport from the Post Office or a driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles” is incorrect. Both Trump and Obama could legitimately get those documents using the “short form” birth certificates as provided by the two. [Media Matters, 3/29/2011] Politico’s Ben Smith reports, somewhat facetiously, that if Trump’s personal qualifications are to be scrutinized as thoroughly as Obama’s have been, Trump is no more qualified to serve as president than Obama. “Trump’s mother, it should be noted, was born in Scotland, which is not part of the United States,” Smith writes. “His plane is registered in the Bahamas, also a foreign country. This fact pattern—along with the wave of new questions surrounding what he claims is a birth certificate—raises serious doubts about his eligibility to serve as president of the United States.” [Politico, 3/28/2011]
California lawyer Orly Taitz, who has long questioned President Obama’s citizenship (see November 12, 2008 and After, March 13, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, September 16-21, 2009, September 17, 2009, October 29, 2009, March 15, 2010, April 16, 2010, July 7 - August 16, 2010, August 9, 2010 - January 11, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), now says Obama once used a different Social Security number to the one he uses now. She also says that Obama graduated from Columbia University in nine months instead of two years, as school records show. [Wall Street Journal, 4/27/2011] Taitz’s “evidence” is a claim that Obama’s Selective Service document shows “his social security… listed as a Connecticut Social Security number.” Politico’s Ben Smith reminds readers that “Taitz… has tried to have forgeries introduced into court filings before.” [Politico, 4/27/2011]
A screenshot of Fox News (.com)‘s headline announcing the release of Obama’s birth certificate. [Source: Think Progress]Responses to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) are mixed. Fox News places a banner headline on its Web site saying, “White House Releases What It Says is President Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate.” [Think Progress, 4/27/2011] Fox News later replaces the original headline with the more conventional, “White House Releases Obama Birth Certificate.” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011] Influential conservative blogger and political pundit Erick Erickson, echoing billionaire television host and rumored 2012 presidential candidate Donald Trump, demands that Obama release his college transcripts, saying, “That’s the issue for me.” Erickson concludes: “When the birth certificate is reviewed and we can see what most of us have always known—that he was born in Hawaii—we can move on. For some, moving on will be to wonder what religion the man is” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008). Commenters on Erickson’s blog immediately begin calling the newly released certificate a “fake,” and one says, “I just wish he’d release the actual real certificate.” Another demands the release of all of Obama’s college and medical transcripts, and another recommends, “We need someone to start looking into recent purchases of printing apparatuses from the 60s.” Comments posted on the conservative news and gossip site Drudge Report are heavily skewed towards calling the certificate a fake. [Erick Erickson, 4/27/2011] Conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND), which has trumpeted much of the “birther” controversy, headlines its article, “Born in the USA?” Its article includes a caveat, “If the document proves valid…” and goes on to claim: “[I]t also could prove his ineligibility because of its references to his father. Some of the cases challenging Obama have explained that he was a dual citizen through his father at his birth, and they contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born citizens.” WND is referring to a host of lawsuits challenging Obama’s status as a “natural born citizen” that have been thrown out of court and debunked as contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. WND publisher Joseph Farah says: “But it is important to remember there are still dozens of other questions concerning this question of eligibility that need to be resolved to assure what has become a very skeptical public concerning Barack Obama’s parentage, his adoption, his citizenship status throughout his life, and why he continues to cultivate a culture of secrecy around his life.” Farah says the document “raises as many questions as it answers.” Bloggers at Free Republic echo WND’s claims, saying that the new document proves Obama is “not a natural born citizen.” Some say that since Obama “renounced his [US] citizenship” for Kenyan citizenship, the new document proves nothing. Another commenter posts a picture of a debunked, faked “birth certificate” showing Obama as being born in Kenya. [WorldNetDaily, 4/27/2011; Free Republic (.com), 4/27/2011; Washington Independent, 4/27/2011] Farah is joined in his doubts about the veracity of the certificate by Paul Joseph Watson, a writer and editor for Alex Jones’s Web site Prison Planet. Watson again raises the issue of Obama being a “natural born citizen,” because of his father’s Kenyan ancestry and citizenship, and writes, “Since the American people have been habitually lied to about everything under the sun, with trust in government at an all time low, a PDF file put out directly by the Obama administration itself isn’t going to make the furore die down at all, and will only lead to claims that the document is a carefully crafted fake.” [Paul Joseph Watson, 4/27/2011] Blogger Karl Denninger of Market-Ticker says the doctor’s signature on the certificate is false, and alleges that information on the certificate was “tampered with.” [Karl Denninger, 4/27/2011; Karl Denninger, 4/27/2011] Two lawyers who filed rejected suits challenging Obama’s citizenship, Philip Berg (see August 21-24, 2008) and Orly Taitz (see August 1-4, 2009), weigh in on the issue. Berg says that Obama was adopted by his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, and thus lost his US citizenship: “I think the issue is that he’s not any more natural born. I don’t care if he releases his birth certificate or whatever. Let’s see his records coming back through immigration.” Taitz says her “analysis” of the document shows that Obama is using a fake Social Security number: “In Obama’s Selective Service [document], his social security is listed as a Connecticut Social Security number” (see April 27, 2011). Politico’s Ben Smith reminds readers that “Taitz… has tried to have forgeries introduced into court filings before.” [Politico, 4/27/2011] Author Jerome Corsi has made similar allegations about Obama’s Social Security number (see September 21, 2010). Barbara Morrill, writing for the progressive blog Daily Kos, says flatly, “Birthers aren’t satisfied because no matter how many documents Barack Obama releases it will never be enough, because there isn’t a document in the world that will turn him white.” [Barbara Morrill, 4/27/2011]
Entity Tags: Drudge Report, Barack Obama, WorldNetDaily, Barbara Morrill, Ben Smith, Donald Trump, Erick Erickson, Prison Planet (.com), Fox News, Paul Joseph Watson, Philip J. Berg, Jerome Corsi, Free Republic, Karl Denninger, Joseph Farah, Orly Taitz, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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