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As enthusiasm for the war in Iraq permeates the US business community as well as mainstream television news outlets (see March 19-20, 2003), billionaire Donald Trump predicts on Fox News that because of the war, “I think the market’s going to go up like a rocket!” (Rich 3/30/2003; Rich 2006, pp. 75)
Billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump tells an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that President Obama “came out of nowhere,” and adds: “In fact, 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. It’s crazy.” Trump, who receives cheers for the statement, tells the assemblage that he is considering running for president in 2012 as a Republican. He is apparently trying to revive the so-called “birther” claims that Obama is not a valid American citizen (see (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, and Around June 28, 2010). In response, PolitiFact, a non-partisan political research organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, retraces Obama’s academic career: Obama attended kindergarten in Honululu, and moved with his family to Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1967, where he attended a Catholic elementary school, St. Francis Assisi Catholic, as well as Besuki Public School, until age 11. He then returned to Honolulu, where he lived with his maternal grandparents and attended a private college preparatory school, Punahou School, until he graduated with a high school diploma. In 1979, he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, transferred to Columbia University in 1981, and graduated from that university in 1983. He later attended, and graduated from, Harvard Law School in 1991. Trump’s claims apparently center on rumors that “no one knew him” at Columbia University, fueled in part by a 2008 editorial by the Wall Street Journal (see September 11, 2008), which repeated the “finding” of a Fox News “investigation” that found 400 classmates of Obama’s had not known him at the time. Another source is Libertarian vice-presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root, who attended Columbia at the same time as Obama and says: “I think the most dangerous thing you should know about Barack Obama is that I don’t know a single person at Columbia that knows him, and they all know me. I don’t have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia” (see September 5, 2008). Obama has himself said he did little socializing at Columbia, and though he had some involvement with the Black Students Organization and participated in anti-apartheid activities, spent most of his time studying: “Mostly, my years at Columbia were an intense period of study,” he has said. “When I transferred, I decided to buckle down and get serious. I spent a lot of time in the library. I didn’t socialize that much. I was like a monk.” The Journal noted a May 2008 story from the Associated Press containing an interview with Obama’s former roommate, Sohale Siddiqi, who verified Obama’s claims, and in January 2009, the New York Times published an interview with another roommate from the time, Phil Boerner, who also validated Obama’s claims of being a bookish, rather solitary student. PolitiFact interviews Cathie Currie, a professor at Adelphi University, who remembers Obama occasionally playing pick-up soccer with her and a group of friends on the lawn outside the library. She says he made an impression because of his athleticism, his maturity, and his wisdom, and she assumed that he was several years older than he actually was. “My sense of it was that he was keeping a low profile,” Currie tells the PolitiFact interviewer. “We’d ask him to go out with us for beers after soccer. He seemed like he wanted to, but then he’d step back and say, ‘Sorry, I’m going to the library.’” PolitiFact lists an array of articles covering Obama’s time at Occidental and Harvard Law School, noting that “[d]ozens of former classmates and teachers from those schools have publicly shared their recollections (and photos) of Obama. Obama was the president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review journal, for goodness sake.” PolitiFact has also found “plenty” of people who remember Obama from elementary and high school, in Indonesia and Hawaii. PolitiFact concludes: “We could get deeper into this but it seems like overkill. It’s abundantly clear that there are lots and lots of former classmates who remember Obama at every level of school. It’s true that Obama’s two years at Columbia are relatively undocumented. And far fewer classmates have publicly shared recollections of Obama from that period, as opposed to other school years before and after. At Columbia, Obama was a transfer student, he lived off campus, and by his and other accounts he buried himself in his studies and didn’t socialize much. But even so, there are several students who recall Obama at Columbia. In short, media accounts and biographies are filled with on-the-record, named classmates who remember Obama. Trump is certainly right that presidential candidates are heavily scrutinized. As even a basic online search confirms, Obama’s school years were, too. Trump’s claim that people who went to school with Obama ‘never saw him, they don’t know who he is’ is ridiculous. Or, to borrow Trump’s phrase, it’s crazy.” (St. Petersburg Times 2/10/2011; JamesJoe 2/17/2011)
Mike Huckabee (R-AR), the former governor of Arkansas, currently a host on Fox News and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, tells a gathering at the National Press Club that it is “useless” to get into the seemingly endless debate on President Obama’s citizenship (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, and Around June 28, 2010) as recently revived by billionaire Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011). “I find it unnecessary, useless, and frankly a bit unnecessary to get into all sorts of debates over President Obama’s religion or the authenticity of his birth,” he says. “I know for some people that it is an obsession. It is not with me.” Huckabee has said that if Obama were not a US citizen, that fact would have emerged during the 2008 presidential primary. He also acknowledges that Obama is a Christian (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008) and calls Obama a good role model for fathers, saying: “I have no disagreement with President Obama as a human being. In fact, I’ll go so far to say one of the things I respect very much is the role model that he has served as a husband and a father. And I think he has been an exemplary husband to his wife and an extraordinary father to his daughters. Frankly, America needs a good role model like that.” Huckabee emphasizes that he does not agree with Obama’s policies, saying, “But this is not an attack on President Obama, the person, even though you will see sharp elbows at the policies that he has put forth, specifically, many of the economic policies.” (St. Petersburg Times 2/28/2011)
Billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump, who has begun publicly questioning President Obama’s US citizenship (see February 10, 2011), explores the “controversy” on ABC’s morning talk show Good Morning America. In an interview conducted on his private plane, “Trump Force One,” Trump implies that Obama is lying about being born in Hawaii (see October 1, 2007, April 18, 2008, Before October 27, 2008, August 4, 2010, and February 28, 2011), says he is a “little” skeptical of Obama’s citizenship, and says the “birthers” who express their doubts about Obama should not be dismissed as “idiots” (see February 17, 2010). “Growing up no one knew him,” Trump claims. “The whole thing is very strange.” As he has in recent interviews, Trump says he is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He implies that he can buy his way into victory, saying he is willing to spend $600 million on a primary run. “I have much more than that,” he says. “That’s one of the nice things. Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich. So if I need $600 million, I can put up $600 million myself. That’s a huge advantage over the other candidates.” Asked if his talk of a candidacy is anything more than a publicity stunt, he replies, “I have never been so serious as I am now.” (Marr 3/17/2011)
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, discussing recent allegations by billionaire Donald Trump that President Obama is not a legitimate US citizen (see February 10, 2011 and March 17, 2011), tells her viewers: “Is Donald Trump a birther? Donald Trump is putting President Obama on the spot, telling him, ‘Show the birth certificate.’” Van Susteren then informs her viewers of a Trump interview on the ABC morning talk show The View where he alleged that “there’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t” want made public, and says: “But why is Trump doing that? Well, he tells the ladies on The View there are too many missing pieces.” (Media Matters 3/24/2011; Media Matters 3/28/2011)
On his Fox News show, host Sean Hannity says that while he believes President Obama was indeed born in the US (see July 2008, October 30, 2008, July 28, 2009, and July 29, 2009), he asks why Obama has never released his birth certificate. The Obama campaign released the “short form” certificate in 2008, the version routinely issued by Hawaii’s Department of Health (see June 13, 2008), and since then the certificate has been repeatedly shown to be valid (see June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, and July 28, 2009). Hannity is apparently referring to the “long form” certificate, which is kept on file and never released (see July 1, 2009). Hannity shows a clip from billionaire Donald Trump’s same-day visit to the ABC morning talk show The View, where Trump alleged that “there’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t” want made public. Several of Hannity’s guests agree that Obama “should just show it” assuming he has “nothing to hide.… It would shut everybody up and no one would care.” Hannity asks: “[I]t kinda does get a little odd here. Can’t they just produce it and we move on?” Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX) says: “Obviously there’s some value to the White House not producing it. I don’t know what that could be. This easily could have been ended. It could have been ended a couple of years ago.” (Media Matters 3/23/2011; Media Matters 3/28/2011)
Conservative radio host Sean Hannity interviews Joseph Farah, the editor and primary writer for conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND). WND has been at the forefront of the “birther” movement against President Obama (see December 5, 2008, May 28, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, and January 18, 2011). Hannity says that it is unfair for “birthers” such as Farah to have “been beaten up so badly in the press” for pursuing the issue, and goes on to add that birthers have been “crucified and beaten up and smeared and besmirched.” Farah blames Obama and his administration for the controversy, and praises billionaire Donald Trump (see (see February 10, 2011, March 23, 2011, and March 23, 2011) for bringing the controversy to the forefront once again. He tells Hannity, “I think it’s very appropriate for Americans to begin to question if there’s a reason that Obama will not produce this simple document that, you know, we all have to produce at various points in our lives, and when the governor of Hawaii, who claims to be a lifelong friend of Obama, cannot find this document, cannot produce it, it’s natural that this becomes an increasingly big issue, an issue that I think touches on both national security.” Obama has indeed produced an authenticated copy of his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008). Farah’s reference to Governor Neil Abercrombie’s inability to “find” the original birth certificate, first proposed on WND, has since been debunked as groundless (see January 18, 2011). Farah promises that WND researcher Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, and January 18, 2011) will have “startling” research on the matter coming soon. (Media Matters 3/24/2011; Media Matters 3/28/2011) Hannity revisits the subject later this evening on his Fox News broadcast. After telling viewers that the controversy exists in part because of Obama’s fond memories of spending some of his childhood in Indonesia, Hannity tells the White House to just “show the birth certificate.… Why won’t they release the birth certificate?… Why don’t they just release it and get it over with?” (Media Matters 3/24/2011; Media Matters 3/28/2011) Hannity has brought the subject up in previous broadcasts (see March 23, 2011).
Appearing as a guest on the Fox News morning talk show Fox and Friends, billionaire Donald Trump continues to raise questions about President Obama’s citizenship. The show hosts reference a recent interview by Trump on the ABC morning talk show The View, in which Trump alleged that “there’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t” want made public. After showing a clip from the interview, the hosts interview Trump about his appearance on The View. He denies View co-host Whoopi Goldberg’s statement that the continuing questions about Obama’s citizenship hinge on questions about his race, states that “anyone can get” their official birth certificate merely for the asking (see June 13, 2008 and July 1, 2009), and concludes: “I didn’t think this was such a big deal, but it’s turning out to be a very big deal.… If you weren’t born in this country, you cannot be president” (see March 2-4, 2011). Trump refuses to answer a direct question as to whether Obama was born in the United States, makes a number of unproven claims about doctors and nurses at the Honolulu hospital not remembering Obama’s birth, claims that Obama family members do not know what hospital he was born at, and casts aspersions on the birth announcements published in the Honolulu newspapers in the days after his birth (see July 2008). He repeats the claim that Obama has spent “millions of dollars” defending himself from “birther” claims, a claim that will soon be debunked (see April 7-10, 2011). He even says that Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) “should be investigated” for claiming that he remembers Obama’s birth (see December 24, 2010). Obama “could have been born outside of this country,” Trump states. (Media Matters 3/28/2011; Johnson 3/28/2011)
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; Falcone 3/29/2011; MacNicol 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.” (Smith 3/28/2011)
Fox Nation, the online blog of Fox News, promotes Donald Trump’s recent claims that President Obama is not a US citizen and may not be a Christian (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, and March 28-29, 2011). Fox Nation publishes a story with the headline “Trump on Obama: ‘Maybe He’s a Muslim.’” The story excerpts a recent interview of Trump by Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly, who said Trump “hammer[ed] the birth certificate” during a recent appearance on the ABC morning talk show The View. O’Reilly says his own investigative staffers determined that two birth announcements placed in Honolulu newspapers the week of Obama’s birth proved to his satisfaction that Obama was indeed born in the US and therefore is a US citizen (see July 2008). “There couldn’t have been a sophisticated—what is he, Baby Jesus?—there was a sophisticated conspiracy to smuggle this baby back into the country? So I just dismissed it. But you made a big deal of it.” Trump explains that those announcements could have been planted by Obama supporters bent on fraud, and even claims, “I have never seen” a birth announcement in a newspaper. “Really?” O’Reilly responds. “They are common.… But why is this important to you?” Trump says that because he doubts Obama is a citizen, Obama’s status as president is doubtful. He goes on to defend “birthers” as “just really quality people that just want the truth,” and lambasts media figures who make “birthers” “afraid to talk about this subject. They are afraid to confront you or anybody about this subject.” He concludes: “People have birth certificates. He doesn’t have a birth certificate (see June 13, 2008). He may have one but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.” (Media Matters 3/30/2011; Fox Nation 3/30/2011) O’Reilly has been critical of the so-called “birthers” before (see July 29, 2009).
MSNBC news hosts Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd conduct a telephone interview with billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump, who uses the opportunity to state his belief that President Obama “was not born in this country” (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, and March 28-29, 2011). Guthrie and Todd laugh at Trump’s statement, and Todd calls Trump’s theory “an incredible conspiracy.” However, when Fox Nation, the online blog of Fox News, posts the video of the interview, it headlines the video, “Trump Thumps MSNBC Hosts on Obama’s Birth Certificate.” (Media Matters 4/1/2011; Fox Nation 4/1/2011)
Leonard Pitts Jr., an African-American columnist for the Miami Herald, writes that the ongoing “birther” conspiracy theory surrounding President Obama’s citizenship, recently re-energized by billionaire Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, and April 1, 2011), is, at its core, driven by racial prejudice. “[I]t is time to call this birther nonsense what it is,” he writes, “not just claptrap, but profoundly racist claptrap.” Pitts goes on: “And spare me the e-mails where you soliloquize like Hamlet, the back of your hand pressed to your forehead, eyes turned heavenward, as you moan how it is impossible to criticize this president without being accused of racism. Criticize him to your heart’s content. Give him hell over Libya. Blast him about Guantanamo. Knock him silly on health care reform. He is the president; taking abuse is part of his job description. But this ongoing birther garbage, like the ongoing controversy about his supposed secret Muslim identity (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008), is not about criticism. It is not about what he has done but, rather, what he is.” The “Muslim” and “birther” controversies are “dog whistle” issues, he writes, that “provide euphemistic cover for those who want to express alarm over the raw newness of him, the sweeping demographic changes he represents… without appearing uncouth enough to do so.” He concludes: “Frankly, I wish Trump and his fellow birthers would just go ahead and call Obama an N-word. Yes, it would be reprehensible and offensive. But it would be a damn sight more honest, too.” (Pitts 4/1/2011)
New York Times columnist Gail Collins lambasts billionaire television host Donald Trump, both for his media-savvy flirtation with the 2012 Republican presidential candidacy and for his support of the “birther” controversy (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, and April 1, 2011). Collins calls Trump’s advocacy of “birtherism” “loony,” and implies he chose it to steal a march over a lackluster field of more “traditional” potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. She derides his business “success,” noting his most recent success is as the host of a television reality show, his bankruptcy of a once-profitable line of casinos, and his loss of millions on opulent high-rise apartment buildings. She notes that after she wrote an earlier column mocking Trump’s financial failures, he retorted by sending her a copy of the column with her picture circled and the words “The Face of a Dog!” written over it. Trump is not a serious candidate, she writes; he is doing what he does best: self-promotion, “product-placement, and personal aggrandizement.” (Collins 4/1/2011) A week later, Trump responds with a letter to the editor. He accuses Collins of having written “nasty and derogatory articles about me” in the past, and says he respects her for being able to survive so long “with so little talent.” He lambasts her for deriding his advocacy of “birtherism,” citing the “very large segment of our society” who believe that President Obama is not a legitimate American citizen, and cites as “proof” the long-debunked claim that Obama’s “grandmother from Kenya” told a caller that she saw Obama being born in a Kenyan hospital (see October 16, 2008 and After). Trump says the birth certificate Obama has produced (see June 13, 2008) is legally invalid (see August 21, 2008 and October 30, 2008), and claims no records exist in Hawaii’s state government of Obama’s birth record. He calls the term “birther” a “derogatory” label, and says had similar claims been raised about President Bush or any other president, “they would never have been allowed to attain office, or would have been thrown out of office very quickly.” Trump alleges that “the press protects President Obama beyond anything or anyone I have ever seen,” and says: “What they don’t realize is that if he was not born in the United States, they would have uncovered the greatest ‘scam’ in the history of our country. In other words, they would become the hottest writer since Watergate, or beyond. Open your eyes, Gail, there’s at least a good chance that Barack Hussein Obama has made mincemeat out of our great and cherished Constitution!” (Trump 4/8/2011)
Billionaire Donald Trump, the host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, reportedly considers running for president in 2012 as a Republican. Trump has made similar claims in 1988 and 2000, but those were, according to Media Bistro, “just publicity stunts.” Trump is focusing on the “birther” controversy, claims from some on the right that President Obama is not a naturally-born American citizen. Though Obama has produced his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008) and satisfied constitutional requirements for proving his eligibility to serve as president, Trump and many “birthers” insist that he is actually a Kenyan citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, and April 1-8, 2011). Today, Trump takes part in contentious interviews on NBC’s Today Show, with Today co-host Meredith Vieira interviewing him; on MSNBC’s Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough; and an appearance later in the day on CNN. (On Morning Joe, former Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA) tells Trump, “Get off the birther stuff.”) Time magazine media critic James Poniewozik calls the Today interview “a trifecta of self-promotion for NBC Universal. It gave a platform to the star of Celebrity Apprentice, one of NBC’s few minor hits. It gave Today a buzzed-about interview… [a]nd it helped publicize an new NBC / Wall Street Journal poll that shows Trump tied for second as a hypothetical GOP presidential candidate.” Trump tells Vieira: “Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country. Right now, I have some real doubts.… I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding.” Trump is combative with the somewhat acquiescent Vieira, saying he is increasingly suspicious that Obama has “conned the world” about his citizenship. Trump refuses to let Vieira refute his allegations; for example, when Vieira attempts to tell Trump about Hawaii’s policy on what birth documents it makes available (see July 1, 2009), Trump merely talks loudly over her. She lets him go unchallenged with a number of long-debunked assertions. For example, Trump asserts that Obama’s grandmother claimed to have seen Obama born in Kenya (see October 16, 2008 and After), saying: “His grandmother in Kenya said, ‘Oh no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth.’ Now, she’s on tape and I think that tape’s going to be produced fairly soon.… The grandmother in Kenya is on record saying he was born in Kenya.” Poniewozik says that claim is on a par with a recent fraudulent “birth certificate” from Kenya made available on the Internet (see August 1-4, 2009); so, Poniewozik writes, “now millions of Today viewers are invited to take it as fact.” Trump also claims to have sent his own investigators to Hawaii, who have supposedly unearthed startling evidence of Obama’s Kenyan citizenship (see April 7, 2011), but does not give any specifics. Poniewozik concludes that NBC News anchor Brian Williams is likely “mortified” by Trump’s NBC appearance, considering how Williams and NBC News have “thoroughly worked over the birther conspiracies” and found them groundless. (NBC News 4/7/2011; Weprin 4/7/2011; Poniewozik 4/7/2011; St. Petersburg Times 4/7/2011) Trump’s claim that Obama has spent “over $2 million” defending himself from challenges to his citizenship is quickly shown to be false (see April 7-10, 2011).
Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepeneur and television show host who, it is rumored, may run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, announces he has sent a team of his own private investigators to Hawaii to learn if President Obama was actually born there. Trump has repeatedly proclaimed his doubts over Obama’s citizenship, almost single-handedly reviving the “birther” controversy from 2008-09 (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, and April 7, 2011). Trump tells an NBC reporter that his investigators might uncover “one of the greatest cons in the history of politics and beyond.… I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding” (see April 7, 2011). Trump asserts, falsely, that Obama has “spent $2 million in legal fees trying on to get away from this issue (see April 7-10, 2011), and if it weren’t an issue, why wouldn’t he just solve it?” He says that Obama’s US citizenship may be “one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in the history, period.… Right now, I have real doubts.” Recent CNN polls show that three-quarters of Americans believe Obama is an American citizen, but 43 percent of Republicans believe he is not. Trump says he will announce his decision to run for president after his television show, Celebrity Apprentice, finishes its season run. He brags: “I hate to say it. I have the No. 1 show on NBC. Is that the correct statement? The Celebrity Apprentice is doing great. You’re not allowed to have a show on and be a candidate. It’s a great show and it’s got phenomenal ratings, and until that show is over I can’t declare, otherwise NBC would have to take the show off the air and that would be very unfair.” The show’s final episode will air in mid-May 2011. (Mooney 4/7/2009; Linkins 4/7/2011)
Washington pundits are split as to whether billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump is serious about mounting a run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012. Recently, Trump has unleashed a barrage of criticism and allegations as to President Obama’s status as a US citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, and April 7, 2011), and has encouraged the rumor that he intends to run. Current polls show Trump running a strong second behind former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), tied with former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AK), and well ahead of other Republican luminaries such as Sarah Palin (R-AK) and Newt Gingrich (R-GA) in a hypothetical 2012 primary battle. Tea party supporters choose Trump as their top candidate, well ahead of Romney and Huckabee. Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza notes that as recently as 2007, Trump was openly contemptuous of many Republican policies, and touted then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as “the best.” After questioning a number of political strategists, Cillizza determines that Trump is doing well in preliminary polls because of his enormous name recognition, his combative style, and his apparent business acumen. Democratic strategist Peter Hart says that tea partiers have abandoned Palin in large part for Trump, whom he calls “their current flavor du jour.” A Republican strategist who refuses to allow his name to be used says voters “like the no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach that Trump seems to take.” And Trump’s success at forging a billion-dollar financial empire gives some people “economic hope,” according to Republican consultant Carl Forti. “They want a job.… Trump’s a businessman, so in theory, he knows what he’s doing.” Republican strategist Alex Vogel predicts that Trump’s popularity will fizzle within days of actually entering the race, saying: “It is a huge mistake for people to confuse fame with electability or seriousness of candidacy. If fame was all it took, [American Idol creator] Simon Cowell could pick presidents and not just rock stars.” Cillizza says that Trump’s current popularity speaks more to the volatility of the Republican primary field than a real movement among Republicans to put Trump in the White House. (Cillizza 4/7/2011) Progressive Washington pundit Steve Benen is less charitable than Cillizza, noting that “Trump has been running around to every media outlet he can find, spewing conspiracy theories and bizarre ideas that resonate with easily-fooled extremists. And wouldn’t you know it, polls suddenly show Republican voters gravitating to the guy.… When a clownish television personality plays to their worst instincts, these folks are inclined to like what they see.” Benen calls Trump’s potential nothing more than “an elaborate publicity stunt, closer to a practical joke than an actual campaign.” He concludes: “[W]hat matters here is what the latest polls tell us about the hysterical wing of the Republican Party. A reality-show personality has been whining incessantly about the president’s birth certificate, and a sizeable contingent of the GOP base has decided that’s enough to earn their support. Trump’s a sideshow. The real story here is the madness that’s overcome a few too many Republican voters.” (Benen 4/7/2011)
Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepeneur and television show host who, it is rumored, may run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, announces that he intends to meet with tea party organizers and an Arizona legislator to discuss an Arizona bill that would require candidates for president to prove that they are natural born citizens (see April 13-15, 2011). Trump has repeatedly expressed his doubts that President Obama is a US citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, and April 7-10, 2011). Trump intends to meet with Arizona Representative Carl Seel (R-AZ), who sponsored the bill. Seel says, “I’m honored to get the ability to meet with him and discuss it, and I want to thank him for being such a supporter of this issue.” Also at the meeting will be Kelly Townsend, who co-founded the Greater Phoenix Tea Party. Townsend says of Seel’s proposal: “It’s not a birther bill. It’s not about Mr. Obama. It’s about preventing any questions from coming up in the future, putting something in place so no one could question it.” However, Seel’s office issues a press release stating that Trump “has brought the issue of President Barack Obama failing to provide a birth certificate front and center recently.” (Zernike 4/7/2011)
Billionaire Donald Trump, the host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and a rumored candidate for the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, claims that President Obama has spent some $2 million defending himself against legal challenges to his US citizenship. In recent weeks, Trump has loudly proclaimed his conviction that Obama is not a US citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, and April 7, 2011). Trump is echoing claims made by former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate who now appears regularly on Fox News. In a recent NBC interview, he claimed Obama “spent $2 million in legal fees trying to get away from this issue.” On CNN, he asked: “I just say very simply why doesn’t he show his birth certificate? Why has he spent over $2 million in legal fees to keep this quiet and to keep this silent?” On Fox, Palin repeats the figure and praises Trump’s efforts, saying that Trump is “paying for researchers to find out why President Obama would have to spend $2 million to not show his birth certificate. So more power to him.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, attempts to secure information from Trump about the source of his $2 million figure, and gets no response. One source, PolitiFact determines, is the conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND), which claimed that Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings showed the Obama presidential campaign paid $1.7 million to the law firm of Perkins Coie since the election of November 2008. PolitiFact digs into the expenditures, as reported by law to the FEC by the Obama campaign organization Obama for America (OFA, later renamed Organizing for America). The figure of $1.7 million is accurate, PolitiFact determines, and adding expenditures between October 2008 and December 2010, the figure rises to some $2.6 million. However, the expenditures cover a variety of legal expenses, little of which went to birth certificate lawsuit issues. The FEC does not collect specific information on each payment, so it is impossible to tell how much, if any, has gone to Perkins Coie for court challenges to Obama’s citizenship. In a recent story in Roll Call, Democratic National Committee press secretary Hari Sevugan said, “[T]he campaign has incurred ordinary legal expenses related to the wind-down of its operations and other legal services, which all campaigns incur, and which are proportional to the unprecedented size of this campaign.” Some of the expenditures have gone to fight what Sevugan called “unmeritorious” lawsuits, including one that challenged Obama’s citizenship. And WND has reported that Perkins Coie lawyer Robert Bauer wrote one letter challenging a lawsuit filed by Gregory Hollister questioning Obama’s right to the presidency (see March 5, 2009). PolitiFact notes that most of the legal expenses paid by OFA “have nothing to do with the citizenship question.” Four campaign finance experts confirm that after any presidential election, a campaign’s law firm has plenty of work to do and such an expenditure by a campaign is not unusual. PolitiFact concludes: “It’s clear to us that the WND story has been twisted to wrongly assume that every dollar the Obama campaign spent on legal fees went to fight the release of Obama’s birth certificate. The evidence shows that’s simply not true. It’s a huge, unsubstantiated leap to assume that all, or most, of that was related to lawsuits about Obama’s citizenship. We rule Trump’s claim false.” (St. Petersburg Times 4/7/2011)
Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepeneur and television show host who, it is rumored, may run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, tells CNN’s Candy Crowley that he does not “like to talk about” the “birther” issue “too much.” Trump has relentlessly attacked President Obama’s citizenship—the central tenet of the “birther” issue—in recent weeks (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, and April 7, 2011). The media watchdog blog Mediaite credits Crowley with a game attempt to “challenge Trump’s tenuous grasp of the facts surrounding President Obama’s birth, but like most conspiracy theorists, there’s no evidence too strong to ignore or too weak to believe, as long as it supports your delusion.” Trump “simply ignore[s]” the facts Crowley presents, Mediaite reports. (Christopher 4/10/2011)
Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the former director of Hawaii’s Department of Health who has personally reviewed President Obama’s original birth certificate and pronounced it valid (see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009), calls the “birther” controversy “ludicrous.” She again pronounces the certificate valid, and denounces “conspiracy theorists” in the so-called “birther” movement for continuing to spread bogus claims about the issue (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, Around June 28, 2010, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 28, 2011, and April 5, 2011). “It’s kind of ludicrous at this point,” she tells an NBC interviewer. Fukino speaks in response to recent attempts by billionaire television host Donald Trump to revive the controversy surrounding Obama’s birth certificate and citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, and April 21, 2011). Trump has made statements on NBC and CNN saying that “nobody has any information” about Obama’s birth and “if he wasn’t born in this country, he shouldn’t be president of the United States.” Fukino says no matter who releases what, the “birthers” will continue to question Obama’s citizenship. “They’re going to question the ink on which it was written or say it was fabricated. The whole thing is silly.” Fukino again explains the difference between the “long form” birth certificate, the Hawaiian “record of live birth” kept in state government vaults according to state law, and the “short form” certificate which is issued per an individual’s or family request (see July 1, 2009). She has twice inspected the “long form” certificate and found it true and valid, once at the request of former Governor Linda Lingle (R-HI), who in October 2008 asked Fukino if she could make a public statement in response to claims then circulating on the Internet that Obama was actually born in Kenya (see October 30, 2008). Fukino insisted on inspecting the form herself, in the company of the Hawaiian official in charge of state records, found the form valid, and stated such. “It is real, and no amount of saying it is not, is going to change that,” Fukino says. She notes that her then-boss, Lingle, was a supporter of Obama’s challenger, John McCain (R-AZ), and would presumably have to be in on any cover up since Fukino made her public comment at the governor’s office’s request. “Why would a Republican governor—who was stumping for the other guy—hold out on a big secret?” she asks. She notes again that the “short form” “certification of live birth” that was obtained by the Obama campaign in 2007 and has since been publicly released (see June 13, 2008) is the standard document that anybody requesting their birth certificate from the state of Hawaii would receive from the Health Department. The “short form” was given to the Obama campaign at Obama’s request. “What he got, everybody got,” Fukino says. “He put out exactly what everybody gets when they ask for a birth certificate.” Other records, such as vital records in the Health Department’s Office of Health Status Monitoring, show that “Obama II, Barack Hussein” was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, further verifying Obama’s citizenship status. And two Honolulu newspapers announced the birth of a baby boy to Obama’s parents on that date (see July 2008). But Trump and others continue to insist that only the original “long form” record will prove Obama’s birth status. Joshua Wisch, a spokesman for the Hawaii attorney general’s office, says that Hawaiian state law precludes the release of “vital records” such as the “long form” birth certificate to anyone, even to the individual whose birth it records. “It’s a Department of Health record and it can’t be released to anybody,” he says, nor can it be photocopied. Obama could visit the Health Department and inspect it, but could not take it or make copies. Obama requested and received the same “short form” birth certificate anyone would get upon making such a request, Wisch says. (MSNBC 4/11/2011)
Arizona House Bill 2177, a bill requiring presidential candidates to prove they are natural-born citizens before being listed on Arizona state ballots, passes the Arizona State Senate, on a 20-8 party-line vote. The bill then passes the House on another party-line vote, 40-16. House Republican Carl Seel (R-AZ), who co-sponsored the bill, says the intent of the legislation is to “maintain the integrity of the Constitution.” A candidate wishing to run for president in Arizona would, under the legislation, have to submit a “long form birth certificate” that includes at least their date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and doctor, and, if applicable, signatures of any witnesses in attendance. Candidates who do not have such a document could submit other documents in its stead. The original bill required the long-form certificate to be presented, but after some tension between Republican state lawmakers, the long-form certificate was made optional, and other documents were inserted as certifying natural birth—including for Jewish citizens a circumcision certificate, a document given to Jewish parents after their male child is ceremonially circumsized. Such certificates are religious and not legal documents, but the bill would allow such a document to be used to prove citizenship. Other “acceptable” documents include hospital birth records, a postpartum medical record, or an early census record. Critics of the bill say it is driven by the “birther” controversy over whether President Obama is actually a US citizen (see June 27, 2008, July 20, 2008, and August 21, 2008). Billionaire Donald Trump, who says he may run for president as a Republican in 2012, has made frequent calls for Obama to reveal his birth certificate. Obama’s birth certificate has long been made publically available (see June 13, 2008), but “birthers” have consistently refused to accept its validity. State Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voted against the bill and says it would have no standing in federal or state law even if signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ). “This is designed specifically to challenge [Obama’s] ability to run for re-election,” she says. “Frankly, I think they’d be better served by just surfacing a good candidate to run against him.” Critics note that such requirements as stated in the bill already exist under federal law, and Obama, as every presidential candidate has before him, submitted such documents during his filing to run for the White House. (Elliot 4/15/2008; State of Arizona House of Representatives 2011; Delikat 4/13/2011; King 4/13/2011; Sunnucks 4/13/2011) Many credit Trump with energizing the Republican legislators’ push to pass the bill. Trump recently met with Seel concerning the bill and his considered run for the presidency (see April 7, 2011). (Sunnucks 4/13/2011) The Senate version of the bill included wording that some lawmakers said defined natural-born citizens as children whose parents were citizens at the time of the candidate’s birth, which would possibly conflict with constitutional statute. That wording was eliminated from the House version. (Rau 3/23/2011) When the bill reaches Brewer’s desk four days later, she vetoes it (see April 19, 2011).
Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepeneur, television show host, and rumored candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, denies charges of racism in his suggestions that President Obama is not a real American citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, and April 10, 2011). In the process, Trump says he has excellent relations with “the blacks.” Trump tells a New York radio interviewer: “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.” He bemoans the fact that Obama has such widespread support among African-American voters, calling polls that show 95 percent of African-Americans in New York approve of Obama “frightening” and saying of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), in reference to the 2008 Democratic primary: “Look at Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton did so much for the black population, so much and got very few votes.” He adds: “Look, I tell it like it is. Then you hear a political reporter go on and say, ‘It had nothing to do with race.’ But how come she got such a tiny piece of the vote? It’s a very sad thing.” (CNN 4/14/2011; Camia 4/14/2011) The next day, Lee-Anne Goodman of the Toronto-based Canadian Press writes that Trump’s use of the term “the blacks” is “cringe-worthy,” and his characterization of poll results showing heavy African-American support for Obama as “frightening” is telling as to his apparent racial attitudes. American blacks have, until his recent embrace of “birtherism,” shown strong support for Trump. Since then, African-American journalists and pundits have criticized Trump. Corporate affairs executive Goldie Taylor, a former journalist, recently wrote: “As a people, we celebrated his business acumen; purchased his books and anything else with the Trump name we could get our hands on. Now among African-Americans, the once gilded Trump brand is about as worthless as a plug nickel. I’m not calling Trump a racist. But he ought to quit quacking before people start believing he’s a duck.” The day after Trump makes his remark about “the blacks,” the African-American online magazine The Root publishes a piece entitled “How Trump Lost the Black Vote,” which observes: “It’s 2011. It’s perfectly respectable to refer to African-Americans as ‘black people,’ ‘the black community,’ and maybe even ‘black folks’—if you can carry it off. But ‘the blacks?’ No.” Trump could have been “the one candidate in the 2012 Republican field to peel away a few black votes from Obama,” the article continues. “But once Trump started arguing that Obama wasn’t American, whatever good will he had in black world up and vanished.” (Goodman 4/15/2011) An African-American blogger and Capitol Hill staffer who posts under the moniker “The Fed” is far more caustic towards Trump. He writes in reference to Trump’s comments about Clinton: “The Tea Party/birthers LOVE to say that their charge isn’t based in race, however, they consistently do sh_t like this! Now, their potential presidential candidate sees African-Americans as some foreign object incapable of independent thought. In one interview, Trump marginalized not only the Obama administration, but the entire black population. Clearly Trump is playing to the gutter community; spreading lies, pushing conspiracy theories and now racism. The truth is, if Obama lacked his charisma, intelligence, and competence, his ‘blackness’ wouldn’t have been supported by ‘The Blacks.’ Don’t believe me? Ask Alan Key[e]s, Al Sharpton, Cynthia McKinney, Jesse Jackson, or another number of black candidates, how important other qualities are, besides being black. Considering the fact that over the past 222 years, this country has never had an African-American candidate within a rock’s throw of the Oval Office, minimizing any degree of the pride felt in an historic opportunity as nothing more than race based shows how culturally out of touch Trump is with ‘The Blacks.’ If I didn’t know any better, I would think this was Trump’s attempt to say something better than ‘The N_ggers.’ He wanted to speak about the African-American community, but didn’t want the audience to think ‘The Blacks’ were equal to them. He had to maintain the ‘us’ and ‘them’ separation. Instead of humanizing African Americans, he attempted to objectify the entire race to remove common sense from our vote.” (Urban Politico 4/14/2011)
Marilyn Davenport, the Orange County, California, Republican Party official and tea party activist who sent out an email of President Obama and his parents as chimpanzees (see April 15, 2011), apologizes for her error, calling herself an “imperfect Christian,” and says she sees no reason to resign her post as a member of the county GOP’s central committee. She reads a statement to reporters that includes a Bible passage from the Book of James. The statement reads in part: “To my fellow Americans who have seen the email that I forwarded and were offended by my actions, I humbly apologize. I ask for your forgiveness for my unwise behavior. I didn’t stop to think about the historic implications and other examples of how this could be offensive. I’m an imperfect Christian gal who does her best to live a Godly life. I would never do anything to intentionally harm or berate others regardless of ethnicity. Everyone who knows me, knows that to be true. I will not repeat this error. So I ask for your forgiveness, for I am truly sorry.” Asked by reporters who she believes she offended, she says: “I assume I have offended the black people. Having friends who are black, I never intended for that.” The Orange County Republican Central Committee is slated to meet to discuss the issue. Committee member Tim Whitacre says Davenport will not attend, because she has received death threats. Whitacre says, “She’s horrified this has happened and she’s horrified anyone would be offended by this.” Whitacre says that since Davenport has apologized, it is time for people to move on without further comment. “It was a private email from her private house to some private friends,” Whitacre says. “I am not defending the email. No one is defending the content of the email. What I am defending, I know this lady’s mindset and her heart. I know there’s nothing in her history that would say racist.” Republican Party of Orange County chairman Scott Baugh says that the committee can pass a resolution critical of Davenport, and that is about all it can do. “The bottom line is state law precludes the committee from terminating her membership,” Baugh says. “She’s an elected member, elected by the public, and there are very narrow reasons you can remove her, and her racist email is not one of them.” Civil rights leader Earl Ofari Hutchinson says Davenport should resign. “The request by Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh for Davenport’s resignation and pending investigation is not enough,” he says in an email to a Los Angeles NBC station. “The Reverend Al Sharpton has also demanded Davenport’s resignation.… We must send the message that racism will not be tolerated. Racism will be condemned anytime by anybody.” Hutchinson says the Republican National Committee should formally censure Davenport for her email “of a racist, inflammatory, and despicable photo depicting President Obama and his family as monkeys,” and should urge the Orange County GOP to issue an apology to Obama. “Anything less than censure and an apology reinforces the notion that the national GOP tacitly condones racist words and acts by its officials,” Hutchinson says. (Frere and Suter 4/18/2011; Noyes, Lloyd, and Weber 4/20/2011) Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP’s California State Conference, says: “There are no ifs and buts about this cartoon; it is absolutely and positively racist in nature. There is no way that depicting the president of the United States as less than human can be considered anything but a racist act.” Former GOP state chairman Michael J. Schroeder says, “The damage to the Republican Party has been by her, and I still think she should resign.” (McRae 4/20/2011) In an interview, Davenport says she worries she has lost her reputation. “I understand why everyone is contacting me,” she says. “I wasn’t wise in sending the email out. I shouldn’t have done it. I really wasn’t thinking when I did it. I had poor judgment.… Everybody who knows me says they can’t believe people are calling me a racist.” Davenport says that she received the doctored photo of a chimpanzee Obama from a tea party activist, and that the photo is based on the media frenzy prompted by Donald Trump’s claims that Obama might have been born in Africa and therefore is not a US citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, and April 14-15, 2011). (Moxley 4/18/2011)
Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) vetoes a controversial “birther bill” that would require presidential candidates to submit proof of citizenship to the Arizona secretary of state. The bill passed both houses of the Arizona legislature on party-line votes (see April 13-15, 2011). Brewer also vetoes another Republican-backed bill that would have allowed citizens to bring guns onto college campuses. The “birther” bill would have required such documents as the so-called “long form” birth certificate (see July 1, 2009) and/or other acceptable forms of proof of US citizenship, including for Jewish candidates a proof of circumcision. “I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on earth to submit their ‘early baptism or circumcision certificates,’” Brewer says. “This is a bridge too far. This measure creates significant new problems while failing to do anything constructive for Arizona.” Brewer, a former Arizona secretary of state, says she does not support designating one person as “gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate,” as it “could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions.” Many believe the “birther” bill is an attempt to join in the “birther” controversy that has called into question President Obama’s citizenship. Billionaire television host and entrepeneur Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, and April 21, 2011) recently met with the bill’s House sponsor, Representative Carl Seel (R-AZ), and area tea party organizers to discuss the bill and other political items of interest (see April 7, 2011). Many believe that Trump’s interest in the “birther” controversy helped usher the bill through the Arizona legislature. Arizona Senator Steve Gallardo (D-AZ) says Brewer vetoed the bills because they damaged Arizona’s image. “All they do is put us in the national spotlight and make us look silly,” Gallardo says. “She’s saying she doesn’t want that to happen any longer.… At the end of the day, it was the right thing for Arizona.” However, State Senator Steve Smith (R-AZ) says the bill would have settled questions about Obama’s citizenship. (KSAZ-TV 4/18/2011; Arizona Republic 4/18/2011; Reuters 4/19/2011) Bills similar to the “birther” legislation have been defeated in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maine, and Montana. (KSAZ-TV 4/18/2011) It is possible that the Arizona House can override Brewer’s veto, but observers, including House Speaker Kirk Adams (R-AZ) believe that will not happen. Seel says such an attempt would appear to be an attempt to override Brewer’s judgment. “Overrides are a real difficult monster,” he says. (Arizona Republic 4/18/2011)
Billionaire Donald Trump, the host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and a rumored candidate for the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, tells a CNN interviewer to “stop asking me about a birth certificate,” referring to his relentless assault on President Obama’s alleged lack of US citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, and April 14-15, 2011). In a recent CNN interview, Trump said he “does not like” talking about Obama’s birth certificate (see April 10, 2011). “You have to stop asking me about a birth certificate,” he says. “You’ve got to stop asking the questions. The problem is every time I go on a show—like as an example, this morning—the first question you asked me is about the birth certificate. I think my strength is jobs, the economy, and protecting our nation from OPEC, China, and the other countries that are ripping us off.” In earlier interviews, Trump has said he is “proud” to discuss the “birther” allegations. Interviewer Ali Velshi calls the birther claims “ludicrous,” and when Trump tells him to stop asking about the birth certificate, Velshi responds: “We’ll stop asking you the questions when you stop saying that President Obama can’t prove he is born in the United States. Is that a deal?” (Summers 4/21/2011)
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld withdraws from a scheduled appearance at a benefit for Donald Trump’s Eric Trump Foundation because the billionaire entrepeneur and television host has been questioning whether President Obama is a US citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, and April 21, 2011). The event is scheduled for September 13. Seinfeld agreed to do the benefit in January 2011, but according to his manager, he has become “increasingly uncomfortable” with Trump’s questioning of Obama’s citizenship. The manager says that Seinfeld “feels this kind of demagoguery has no place in public discourse.… He has respectfully withdrawn from the event, and is making a contribution both to the Eric Trump Foundation” and to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, another beneficiary of the event. Trump answers with a letter castigating Seinfeld’s decision, writing: “I just learned you canceled a show for my son’s charity, the Eric Trump Foundation, which benefits the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (children with cancer) because of the fact that you think I am being very aggressive with respect to President Obama, who is doing an absolutely terrible job as our leader—just look at Libya, our economy, gas, food, and clothing prices and maybe you will understand what is going on!… [T]he children of St. Jude are very disappointed” in Seinfeld’s decision, he continues. “What I do feel badly about is that I agreed to do, and did, your failed show, The Marriage Ref, even though I thought it was absolutely terrible. Despite its poor ratings, I didn’t cancel on you like you canceled on my son and St. Jude. I only wish I did.” Yahoo! television news reporter Tara Ariano calls Trump’s letter “angry and bitter.” (CNN 4/21/2011; Ariano 4/21/2011)
CNN political analyst Fareed Zakaria accuses billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump of promoting a racist “fantasy” to attack President Obama’s citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, and April 21, 2011). The “birther” issue is “coded racism,” Zakaria writes. “I don’t think there’s any other word for it.… Put it this way: If the president was a white man named John Smith with the other background issues being the same—foreign student father, mother in Hawaii, etc.—would there be any of these dark insinuations? Trump should be ashamed of himself. But then, I suppose, he wouldn’t be Donald Trump.” (Zakaria 4/22/2011)
Appearing on ABC’s Sunday morning talk show This Week, in an interview taped ahead of time but broadcast on Easter morning, Christian evangelist Franklin Graham gives his blessing to billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rumored presidential aspirations, saying: “When I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, ‘Well, this has got to be a joke.’ But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself: ‘You know? Maybe the guy’s right.’” Graham says he agrees with Trump’s allegations that President Obama may not be an American citizen. The Charlotte Observer notes, “There was no discussion of how Graham, a conservative Christian, could support a thrice-married owner of gambling casinos.” Graham has said in recent years that Obama was “born a Muslim” and Islam is a “wicked” religion. On This Week, he questions Obama’s Christianity (see January 6-11, 2008) and refuses to say that Obama’s birth certificate is valid (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). “The president… has some issues to deal with here,” he says. “He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly (see July 1, 2009). I was born in a hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and I know that my records are there. You can probably even go and find out what room my mother was in when I was born. I don’t know why he can’t produce that.… It’s an issue that looks like he could answer pretty quickly.” In a subsequent interview for Christianity Today, Graham backs away from his previous claims that Obama is a Muslim, saying: “I do not believe for an instant that Obama is a Muslim. He has said he’s not a Muslim. I take him at his word. People say he’s not born in the United States. I take it on the word that they properly vetted him before they swore him into office. I’m sure somebody had to look at his credentials. I’m not saying the president is a Muslim, never said he’s a Muslim. He says he’s a Christian.… I’ve never said that Obama was born a Muslim.” However, he notes, “All throughout the Muslim world, every person whose father is a Muslim is recognized under Islamic law as a Muslim.” Obama’s father was a nonpracticing Muslim. (Funk 4/25/2011; Bailey 4/26/2011) The Charlotte Observer publishes an op-ed in response to Graham’s claims that accuses him of “spouting… nonsense” about Obama’s birth certificate and “join[ing] Trump in fostering the bizarre and false birther allegations.” (Charlotte Observer 4/26/2011) In 2010, Graham told a CNN reporter that Obama’s “problem” was that he was “born a Muslim” (see August 19, 2010).
Responding to recent comments by evangelist Franklin Graham that questioned President Obama’s US citizenship (see April 24-25, 2011), Fox News anchor Shepard Smith tells his viewers: “Fox News can confirm that the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States. Period.” Smith refers viewers to the validated copy of Obama’s birth certificate that has been available for years (see June 13, 2008) before making the assertion that Fox confirms Obama’s US citizenship. (Media Matters 4/25/2011; MacNicol 4/26/2011)
Billionaire television host Donald Trump says that “somebody” informed him that President Obama’s birth certificate is “missing.” During his April 7 interview on NBC’s Today Show, Trump told interviewer Meredith Vieira that he had sent a team of researchers to Hawaii to investigate President Obama’s birth status (see April 7, 2011 and April 7, 2011). “[T]hey cannot believe what they are finding,” he told her. In later interviews, Trump was coy about revealing what, if anything, his investigators have found, telling one reporter, “I’ll let you know that at a future date” and another, “[T]hat’s none of your business.” In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Cooper presses Trump to divulge what his investigators have actually unearthed. Trump claims that he has learned Obama’s birth certificate is “not there and it doesn’t exist.” He says: “Well, I’ve been told very recently, Anderson, that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there and it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, that’s a big problem.” Cooper asks, “Who told you that?” and Trump answers, “I just heard that two days ago from somebody.” Cooper asks, “From your investigators?” and Trump replies: “I don’t want to say who. But I’ve been told that the birth certificate is not there, it’s missing.” Cooper presses Trump, asking, “Can you name even one person who your investigators have talked to?” Trump refuses, saying: “I don’t want to do that right now. It’s not appropriate right now.” CNN researchers working for Cooper’s broadcast have contacted Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the former Hawaii Department of Health director and a Republican, who has repeatedly validated the authenticity of Obama’s original birth certificate (see October 30, 2008, July 28, 2009, and April 11, 2011). She calls Obama’s certificate “absolutely authentic,” and debunks Trump’s suggestion that Obama wants to keep the certificate hidden to cloak his status as a Muslim, because, Fukino says, no birth certificate from that time mentions faith. CNN finds three people who remember Obama as an infant in Honolulu, including Governor Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Obama’s mother’s college advisor, and another mother who gave birth at the same time Obama was born. The other mother says she remembers Obama in the hospital because “in those days, there were hardly any other black babies.” Reportedly, the exchange between Trump and Cooper becomes heated at times. (New York Magazine 4/7/2011; Fox Nation 4/19/2011; Somander 4/26/2011; CNN 4/26/2011)
Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan excoriates billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump for attacking President Obama’s college career (see April 26, 2011). Sullivan writes: “Like a junkie huffing his own glue, Donald Trump throws in the affirmative action card to pump up the GOP base even more. This one really stretches credulity: the man who edited the Harvard Law Review was not qualified to get into Columbia or Harvard. And then a totally fabricated notion that the president’s long-form birth certificate is missing” (see February 10, 2011). Sullivan calls Trump’s allegations “racist smears, based on fear of the cultural ‘other.’” Sullivan concludes: “I don’t think Trump will last very long. I do think he makes other shameless candidates more acceptable.” (Sullivan 4/26/2011)
Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson tells a reporter that the “birther” conspiracy theory, which for three years has questioned President Obama’s US citizenship, is at its heart fundamentally racist, and is part of a larger pattern of opposition to civil rights. “Any discussion of [Obama’s] birthplace is a code word,” Jackson says. “It calls upon ancient racial fears.” Jackson says of billionaire Donald Trump, who has in recent months leveled a spate of “birther” attacks against Obama (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, and April 26, 2011): “Trump has trumpeted this cause. For him to go down this low is a bit surprising. He is now tapping into code-word fears that go far beyond a rational discourse.” Jackson cites a broadening pattern of hostility towards civil rights issues, including the battle over public sector unions, a transportation policy that he says disadvantages poor minority city dwellers, and a renewed interest in policies like voter ID. “I’m saying there’s a pattern here. It’s not just name calling of Barack. We’ll win that battle. There is a retreat—a pronounced, documented retreat on civil rights enforcement.” Jackson adds: “This is the most personal attacks on any president ever. Whose personal religion has ever been challenged before (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008)? That has strong racial overtones.” (Smith 4/26/2010)
Billionaire Donald Trump, the host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and a rumored candidate for the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, makes the allegation that President Obama was a “terrible” college student who may have been admitted to the Ivy League universities of Columbia and Harvard because of his race. Trump offers no proof of the claim; it was first advanced in 2008 in a Wall Street Journal editorial that implied Obama was a “mediocre” student and demanded to see a college thesis that does not exist (see September 11, 2008). In 2009, author Jerome Corsi advanced the groundless claim that Obama was “placed” in Harvard Law School through the auspices of an African-American Muslim radical and a Saudi prince (see July 21, 2009). “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible,” Trump says. “How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.” Obama, like most politicians, has declined to release his college transcripts. Obama graduated from Columbia and then from Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Trump says Obama’s refusal to release his college transcripts is part of a pattern of concealing information about himself. “I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can’t get into Harvard,” Trump says. “We don’t know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president.” Trump takes credit for “reinvigorat[ing]” the birther controversy, and boasts, “[T]he last guy [Obama] wants to run against is Donald Trump.” In his turn, Trump refuses to disclose his net worth. (Fouhy 4/26/2011) Conservative pundit Pat Buchanan agrees, claiming on MSNBC’s Hardball that Obama only got into Harvard Law School because of “affirmative action.” Buchanan has made claims of blacks and Hispanics receiving “special treatment” because of “affirmative action” many times in the past (see May 28, 2009, May 31, 2009, June 12, 2009, June 20, 2009, July 16, 2009, and October 13, 2009). “I think the way was very probably greased, and I think he’s probably affirmative action all the way,” Buchanan says, and adds: “[L]ook… you know how the system works. You apply. He’s an African-American kid at a time where everybody’s saying: ‘Let’s bring those guys in. Give ‘em an advantage, move ‘em ahead.’” (Media Matters 4/26/2011) Liberal pundit Keith Olbermann, writing on his personal blog, ridicules Trump’s demand to see Obama’s college transcripts, writing: “If that doesn’t work, it’ll be his list of movie rentals back in the days of VHS, or his Chicago White Sox ticket stubs to prove he really is a fan, or his laundry delivery records to make sure William Ayers or Jeremiah Wright or Karl Marx hasn’t been slipping him notes inside the suit pockets like they did in that John LeCarre spy novel.… Translated to this sorry chapter of sorry American politics, that means the Radical Right will keep the conspiracy theory going and simply change the focus.… [T]he debate has never been about whether or not Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. The debate has been about whether the Republicans could or can do by rumor, innuendo, and Fox propaganda, what they cannot do by the ballot: find the overarching ‘scandal’ with which to beat a Democratic president.” (Keith Olbermann 4/27/2011)
Author and journalist Michelle Goldberg examines the racial prejudice behind Donald Trump’s recent spate of attacks on President Obama’s citizenship and integrity (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, and April 21, 2011). Trump has recently alleged that Obama was a “terrible student” in college who would not have made it into Ivy League universities such as Columbia and Harvard without some sort of racial bias (see April 26, 2011). Goldberg says Trump is mining the “fever swamps” of the far-right conspiratists for his allegations. Goldberg tracks claims about Obama’s educational history back to a 2008 editorial in the Wall Street Journal that challenged Obama to release his college transcripts to prove that he was not a “mediocre student who benefited from racial preference” (see September 11, 2008). The Journal overlooked the fact that Obama made the Harvard Law Review and graduated with honors from that university’s law school. In recent years, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz, who has introduced forgeries of Kenyan “birth certificates” into evidence in court as “proof” that Obama is not a US citizen (see August 1-4, 2009), has issued a number of allegations about Obama’s college years. Currently she claims he must have been a foreign exchange student in order to get into Columbia University, saying: “That might be one of the reasons why his records are not unsealed. If his records show he got into Columbia University as a foreign exchange student, then we have a serious issue with his citizenship.” She also disputes Columbia’s records of Obama’s graduation from that university, saying that Obama left school after nine months, and offers as proof a document from the National Student Clearinghouse that lists Obama’s dates of attendance as September 1982 to May 1983. However, Kathleen Dugan of the National Student Clearinghouse says Taitz’s search inputs were incorrect, and thusly yielded incorrect data. Taitz also continues to promote the debunked theory that Obama’s 1983 visit to Pakistan proves he is not a citizen (see Around June 28, 2010), and speculates that he visited Pakistan, not for a month or so, “but a year and a half.” Taitz ties the disparate threads of her conspiracy—Obama the poor student benefiting from racial bias, Obama the foreign national, Obama the closet Muslim—into a single theory: she claims that Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal engineered Obama’s acceptance into Harvard Law School, paid his way through school, and worked behind the scenes to get Obama the position of editor of the Law Review. The Saudi prince was introduced to Obama by African-American Muslim radical activist Khalid Al-Mansour, Taitz says (see July 21, 2009). She confirms that she has been in contact with Trump and has forwarded all of her information to him. Goldberg writes: “It’s easy enough to see why this particular narrative has endured. Not only does it position the president as a Muslim Manchurian candidate with longtime ties to agents of the caliphate, but it also assures resentful whites that this seemingly brilliant black man isn’t so smart after all. In that sense, it’s of a piece with the right-wing obsession with Obama’s use of a teleprompter, and with the widespread suspicion that he didn’t really write the eloquent Dreams From My Father, a claim Trump recently made at a Tea Party rally. Obama, in this view, is both sinister and stupid, canny enough to perpetrate one of the biggest frauds in American history but still the ultimate affirmative-action baby. Trump is clearly not as intelligent as Obama, but he’s not an idiot, either. When he blows this particular dog whistle, he knows exactly what the Republican base is hearing.” (Goldberg 4/26/2011)
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, and April 27, 2011) to the point where a Georgia judge has called her “delusional” (see October 13-16, 2009), says that she has doubts about the authenticity of Obama’s long-form birth certificate. Specifically, she says that a real birth certificate from 1961 would have listed Obama’s race as “Negro” and not “African.” She says: “Look, I applaud this release. I think it’s a step in the right direction. I credit Donald Trump in pushing this issue.” However, she adds: “In those years… when they wrote race, they were writing ‘Negro’ not ‘African.’ In those days nobody wrote African as a race, it just wasn’t one of the options. It sounds like it would be written today, in the age of political correctness, and not in 1961 when they wrote white or Asian or ‘Negro.‘… It looks like terminology that would be used today, not 1961.” She continues to insist that because Obama’s father is Kenyan, Obama is ineligible for the presidency because he is not a “natural born citizen,” in spite of being contradicted by the Fourteenth Amendment. (Reilly 4/27/2011; Weisman 4/27/2011) She also wants to know why the certificate lists the address of Obama’s grandparents, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway in Honolulu, and not his parents’ address. Still, she says the birth certificate is an improvement over the previous “short form” certificate released by Obama in 2008 (see June 13, 2008). “I have to say that this is a step in the right direction,” she says, “just as the release of the Watergate tapes was a step in right direction [sic] by Richard Nixon (see July 13-16, 1973). And like Richard Nixon, there’s a good chance this will cost him his presidency (see August 8, 1974). It is a much better document than we had before.” (Weisman 4/27/2011)
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.” (Millhiser 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. (Unruh 4/27/2011; Free Republic (.com) 4/27/2011; Daly 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.” (Smith 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)
On the ABC morning talk show The View, hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar, and Sherri Shepherd take turns attacking the “birther” controversy and its chief proponent, billionaire television host Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, and April 27, 2011). The four variously accuse him of open racism, vilifying President Obama, and hurting the nation’s reputation. Goldberg, an African-American actress and comedian with a progressive bent, says: “I’m getting tired to trying not to find things slightly racist. It is very difficult, on a daily basis, to see this stuff and not say, you know, this is what it is. I have been raised to think: ‘Well, maybe that’s not what they mean. Let me figure it out.’ But, being black, when you say, ‘Y’know, this is racist,’ 9,000 people say, ‘Oh, you’re just playing the race card.’ Well, you know, I’m playing the damn card now.” Later in the broadcast, Goldberg slams Trump directly, saying: “You know how Donald always says, ‘People are laughing at us, thinking we don’t have it?’ Here’s one of the reasons they’re laughing at us, Donald. When you show such insane disrespect to the president of your country, other countries think we’re idiots.” (Bershad 4/27/2011)
In what some critics say is a veiled racial allusion (see March 2011 and April 27, 2011), billionaire television host and rumored Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) by advising Obama to “get off the basketball court” and address the nation’s issues. Trump has attacked Obama’s citizenship for weeks (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 26, 2011, and April 26, 2011) and has recently implied that the only way Obama got into Ivy League universities was through affirmative action (see April 26, 2011). Trump says he is “claiming victory” over the “long form” release, and then says: “If you look at what he’s doing in Libya, which is a total disaster. Nobody even knows what’s going on in Libya. If you look at what’s happening with gasoline prices where he said he has no control over prices, which he does if he gets on the phone or gets off his basketball court or whatever he is doing at the time.” Lee Fang of the progressive news Web site Think Progress writes: “Many have alleged that Trump’s nonstop, unsubstantiated smears about Obama’s birth and legitimacy are coded racial language designed to inspire hatred against Obama’s identity.… After Trump’s claims about Obama’s birth certificate were further discredited, he is moving on to even more transparent racist language.” (Fang 4/27/2011)
Journalist Michael Tomasky, in a column for The Guardian, says the entire “birther” conspiracy theory, which for three years has questioned President Obama’s US citizenship, “is madness, and that the madness comes down to the fact that the president is, for a certain depressingly high percentage of Americans, an Other with a capital O—the kind of person who, to their way of thinking, could not possibly have been legitimately elected the president of any United States they know.” An entire array of “alternate” explanations has been advanced—ACORN, a voter registration and poverty-advocacy group, “stole the election for him,” perhaps, or a “cabal of shifty liberal journalists, many of whom merely happen to be Jewish (and—full disclosure—of which your correspondent was a member), allegedly conspired to vault him into our land’s highest office.” Americans could not have actually voted Obama into office. Ultimately, Tomasky writes, the central question of Obama’s presidency is not about his citizenship, which has time and again been proven legitimate (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008), and is further bolstered by the long-demanded release of his “long form” certificate (see April 27, 2011). “A conspiracy of immense proportions, concocted all the way back in 1961, had to be the only explanation for how this black man got to the White House,” Tomasky writes. “And if you think race isn’t what this is about at its core, ask yourself if there would even be a birther conspiracy if Barack Obama were white and named Bart Oberstar. If you think there would be, you are delusional.” Birther advocate Donald Trump, Tomasky writes, will crow about “forcing” the release of the ‘long form” certificate, and hardcore “birthers” will refuse to accept its validity, instead concocting another mare’s nest of conspiracy theories to “prove” its falsity (see April 27, 2011). While this may make the “birthers,” and the Republicans who continue to support them, “look sillier to a larger percentage of people,” Tomasky concludes, “the problems here are racial paranoia and the bald willingness of politicians to lie in order to stoke it.” (Tomasky 4/27/2011)
Since billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump has garnered so much media coverage for his challenges to President Obama’s citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), Fox News has tremendously increased its coverage of the “birther” controversy, according to a research analysis by progressive media watchdog Media Matters. “[S]everal Fox News figures have embraced the birther conspiracy theory, while others have repeatedly failed to debunk false claims about Obama’s birth,” the report finds. “So widespread was Fox’s coverage of Trump’s embrace of birtherism that some Fox News hosts reported on and joked about the birther conspiracy theory in segments not relating to Trump.” Since March 5, Fox News has shown 52 segments on the “birther” conspiracy theory, with few exceptions (see April 25, 2011), promoting and expanding on the allegations that Obama is not a legitimate US citizen (see April 26, 2011). According to Media Matters’s analysis, 44 of 52 segments—84 percent—made false claims about Obama’s birth that went unchallenged by hosts or guests, including claims that Obama has never produced a legitimate birth certificate (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008), his grandmother claimed he was born in Kenya (see October 16, 2008 and After), and that Obama has spent $2 million blocking the release of his “real” birth certificate (see April 7-10, 2011). In contrast, when Fox News host and presumed 2012 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee claimed Obama grew up “in Kenya” and then backtracked that claim (see February 28, 2011), Fox spent very little time covering Huckabee’s repudiation of his misstatement. Media Matters only covered Fox News “opinion” shows for its study, including Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends Saturday, Fox & Friends Sunday, Justice with Judge Jeanine, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta van Susteren, Glenn Beck, Huckabee, and Your World with Neil Cavuto. Author and columnist Eric Boehlert notes that before Trump’s media splash, Fox had spent far less time, percentage-wise, on the “birther” controversy, and prominent opinion show hosts such as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly had criticized “birther” allegations (see July 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, and February 17, 2010). Boehlert writes: “I mean, what are the odds that Fox News would suddenly take a sharp turn towards birtherism at the exact moment Trump started raising questions about Obama’s birth certificate while busy promoting his kinda/maybe candidacy for president? Fox News’s about-face was especially odd considering that when the exact same bogus birther story was raised during the 2008 campaign Fox News virtually boycotted the story. Fox News refused to touch it. As Obama was running for the White House and questions from the far right were raised about Obama’s eligibility and his birthplace, Fox News paid the story no mind. Then in 2009, when Fox News personalities did address the birther issue, it was usually to belittle the story and mock its followers.… But then, just as Trump stepped forward for his Republican star turn, Fox News decided to alter years of editorial judgment and to fully embrace—to celebrate—the birther story, simultaneously aiding Trump’s (right-wing) political fortunes. It’s almost like the two events were coordinated, no? Either way, it’s now obvious Trump and Fox News formed a mutually beneficial political, and media, alliance: Trump used the Fox News platform to rise his profile, while Fox News used Trump’s birther attacks as cover to wallow in the non-story.” Boehlert quotes Fox News analyst Andrea Tantaros on a recent O’Reilly broadcast, explaining why she encouraged the media to cover Trump: “Let the man speak. He’s got a bigger megaphone than [GOP presidential candidates Mitt] Romney, [Tim] Pawlenty, [Newt] Gingrich, than all of them combined. And you know what; he can drive up Obama’s negatives more than any of the other of those GOP candidates.” (Media Matters 4/27/2011; Boehlert 4/27/2011)
David Frum, a New York Times columnist who once wrote speeches for the Bush administration, writes on his personal blog “Frum Forum” that today’s release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) should bring to an end “the phony controversy” of “birtherism.” He calls the controversy “poisonous and not very subtly racist” (see January 24, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, November 10, 2008, September 14, 2009, March 2011, April 1, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), and asks how the controversy acquired “such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?” To deny that “birtherism” ever existed as a serious component of Republican rhetoric, Frum writes, is “just wrong.” He cites the recent surge in popularity of billionaire television host Donald Trump as a “serious” presidential contender among far-right and tea party voters, and adds: “[N]ot only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers—but so also did every Republican candidate who said, ‘I take the president at his word.’ Birthers did not doubt the president’s ‘word.’ They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, ‘I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.’” Still, Frum writes, the racially fueled allegations persist (see April 27, 2011). Trump is now questioning Obama’s acceptance into Harvard Law School (see April 26, 2011), recycling debunked allegations from 2009 that claimed Obama was “placed” in Harvard through the auspices of a black Islamist radical and a Saudi prince (see July 21, 2009). “The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand,” Frum laments. “It was not only white people who heard the implied message about who counts and who does not count as a ‘real American.’” Frum restates his opposition to virtually every policy and initiative advanced by the Obama administration, and writes: “Republicans should be fighting this president on policy, not winking at those who use race as a weapon.… [T]hose who imagine that they somehow enhance the value of [their] citizenship by belittling the American-ness of their president (see March 2011)—they not only disgrace the politics they uphold, but they do damage that will not soon be forgotten by the voters a revived Republicanism must win.” (David Frum 4/27/2011)
MSNBC talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell has an angry exchange with “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (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), who for years has insisted that President Obama’s “short form” birth certificate (see June 13, 2008) does not prove his citizenship. In light of Obama’s recent release of the “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), O’Donnell tells viewers that he has invited Taitz onto the show to see if she will apologize for her years of insistence that Obama is not a citizen. Taitz refuses to address the issue of the certificate, and instead attempts to tout her latest conspiracy theory, involving Obama’s Selective Service records that she says prove he has used a different Social Security number in the past (see April 27, 2011 and April 27, 2011). A clearly incensed O’Donnell repeatedly refuses to listen to her charges, and asks her repeatedly, “Will you talk about Barack Obama’s birth certificate?” After she continues to push her charge, even demanding that he give a close-up to the document she is attempting to show the camera, O’Donnell says: “All right, that’s it. Get her off this show. Get out. You’re not going to talk about the birth certificate so roll the tapes. Go home, you’re fired. Go play with Donald Trump.” (MSNBC 4/27/2011; Webster 4/28/2011) “Look, she’s crazy,” he says. “I invited a crazy person on this show to see if the crazy person… could say something responsive, something human, to the document that was released today… and she wants to play with all of her other kid’s toys.” (Huffington Post 4/27/2011; MSNBC 4/27/2011) After ending the interview and having Taitz taken off screen, O’Donnell tells viewers that he had not anticipated Taitz’s attempt to dodge any discussion of the birth certificate and instead talk about a new and different conspiracy theory. Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher writes: “I doubt that. He has clearly studied Orly’s modus operandi, and was ready for the barrage of patter. O’Donnell was a tad merciless, but it’s hard to cry any crocodile tears for Taitz, who has been given far too much attention so far.” (Christopher 4/27/2011) The Huffington Post calls the segment “a wild, high-decibel, nearly incomprehensible interview.” (Huffington Post 4/27/2011)
Progressive columnist Ari Melber, writing for The Nation, states that billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump is using coded racist messages to attack President Obama. Melber cites recent Trump claims that Obama, whom he called a “terrible student,” could not have gotten into Ivy League universities unless it was somehow due to race (see April 26, 2011), and writes: “By charging that Obama was not admitted based on merit, Trump is suggesting that Obama was admitted because he is black.… He is blatantly attacking Obama’s teenage qualifications for college—a topic so obscure, it was a non-issue in Obama’s exhaustive, two-year-long presidential campaign.” Melber cites the underlying racism of the entire “birther” controversy (see January 24, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, November 10, 2008, September 14, 2009, March 2011, April 1, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), and calls Trump’s attacks on Obama’s citizenship and college performance “a coded attack—aimed at the racists but clinging to deniability—[that] curdles into public, blatant racism.” “Birtherism,” Melber writes, “is a putatively non-racial, vaguely constitutional way to challenge the legitimacy of the first black president and appeal to racists without sounding officially racist. [Birther proponents] won’t go away. They are an audience-in-waiting for any amplified race-baiter.” (Melber 4/27/2011) Melber is echoing sentiments expressed days before by CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria (see April 22, 2011).
National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg writes that while he has not studied the newly-released “long form” birth certificate released today by President Obama (see April 27, 2011), he assumes it is legitimate, barring any information about Obama having “a birthmark that resembles the numbers ‘666’” or information about his father “work[ing] for the KGB and—of course—assuming that the font in question matches typewriters of the time… I figure this puts the birther thing to bed once and for all. Good.” However, Goldberg poses what he calls a “perplexing question: If this was possible all along, why did the WH take such sweet time releasing it? Could it be that this White House, continuing a tactic used by Democrats for years, actually liked being able to cast their opponents—often through guilt by association—as paranoid nuts? No, that couldn’t possibly be it.” (Goldberg 4/27/2011) In a post on his Twitter account, Fox News talk show host Brian Kilmeade asks a similar question: “[W]hy did the president wait so long to put the birther issue to rest?” (Media Matters 4/27/2011) Jonathan Strong of the conservative news blog The Daily Caller notes that Obama waited to release his form “after years of speculation about the issue metastasized into a major political phenomenon he could no longer ignore,” and asks, “Why did Obama, who has proudly vowed his administration would be the ‘most open and transparent in history,’ wait so long?” Strong theorizes that Obama was responding to a recent spate of publicity generated by billionaire television host Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), along with a “media push” from Web news blogger Matt Drudge and an upcoming book by author and conspiracist Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, September 21, 2010, January 18, 2011, and March 27-28, 2011). Strong writes: “Certainly, conspiracy theorists who peddled lies and half-truths on the issue—and there were many—are at fault for the explosion of the issue. But did Obama provide them cover in failing to fully address a simple document request for over two years? The political world in Washington was rife with speculation from Democrats and Republicans about whether Obama was using the ‘birther’ issue for political advantage, as a way to make his conservative critics appear fringe.” (Jonathan Strong 4/27/2011) Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, whose work has provided much of what Strong calls the “lies and half-truths” that have continued to churn the story (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008, and August 4, 2009), writes: “Today Obama announced he would finally release the long form of his birth certificate. As Obama continues to toy with and taunt the American people, you have to scratch your head and say, what took so long? And why?” (Pamela Geller 4/27/2011)
New Yorker columnist David Remnick joins a number of media figures and others in proclaiming the “birther” controversy, now presumably settled by President Obama’s issuance of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), to be rooted in racism (see April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Remnick writes: “There is the birther fantasy; the fantasy that Bill Ayers wrote Dreams from My Father (see August 1, 2008 and After and May 7, 2010); the fantasy that the president has some other father, and not Barack Obama Sr. (see October 24, 2008 and Before October 27, 2008); the fantasy that Obama got into Harvard Law School with the help of a Saudi prince and the Nation of Islam (see July 21, 2009). There is a veritable fantasy industry at work online and in the book-publishing industry; there are dollars to be made. The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning: that Obama is foreign, a fake, incapable of writing a book, incapable of intellectual achievement. Let’s say what is plainly true (and what the president himself is reluctant to say): 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.” The only “radical” things about Barack Hussein Obama, Remnick writes, are his race and his name. “[E]ven now, more than two years after the fact, this is deeply disturbing to many people, and, at the same time, the easiest way to arouse visceral opposition to him.” Opposition to Obama based on these qualities is, Remnick writes, “a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering.” Remnick accuses billionaire television host and birther enthusiast Donald Trump of directly and deliberately involving himself in such race-bating, but, he concludes, “[t]he shame is that there are still many more around who, in the name of truth-telling, are prepared to pump the atmosphere full of poison.” (Remnick 4/27/2011)
Journalist and author David Corn examines the media’s reaction to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), writing that Washington reporters were, from the time just before Obama’s press briefing to the period of intensive coverage and analysis immediately following, alternating between expressing incredulity that Obama would spend time on such a “minor” issue and, in Corn’s words, “jumping up and down in anticipation.” Obama made the decision in large part to put an end to the endless media coverage going to the “birther” controversy that he feels would be better spent on analyzing and covering the discussions about the nation’s budget woes. In his brief address regarding the release of the document, Obama says: “[T]wo weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.” The entire controversy is a “distraction,” he says, that needs to stop soaking up huge amounts of media coverage. In the moments before the press briefing, Obama commented on a “break-in” by NBC political reporter Chuck Todd to that network’s normal broadcast schedule: “I was just back there listening to Chuck—he was saying, it’s amazing that he’s not going to be talking about national security. I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it.” Corn writes, “Ending the birther conspiracy allowed him to nudge the political media and demonstrate he’s the mature leader in town.” Obama wanted to deliver the message himself, Corn writes: “He wanted to come to the podium and take point on the birther rebuttal, using the occasion to address that larger problem and to demonstrate his own desire to rise above political pettiness in order to make Washington work for the citizenry. So rather than just release the records and allow the cable chatterers to chew up the material (and bash [billionaire ‘birther’ enthusiast Donald] Trump), the White House deployed the president to throw the knock-out punch, realizing that it had a much better chance to cut through the clutter if he was the messenger.” Corn concludes with a rhetorical question: “[C]an [Obama] turn the end of birtherism into a teachable moment? That may well depend on how the media covers it.” (Corn 4/27/2011)
Conservative radio pundit Rush Limbaugh tells listeners that President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) because of polling data. “[E]verybody’s asking: ‘Why now? Why now?’” he says. “I think I’ve got the answer. I think it’s all about polling data. I think up ‘til now the polling data showed that it was a winning issue for Obama. The birthers were considered crackpots and the polling data showed as long as it continued that way, that there was hay to be made by Obama by not releasing the birth certificate and stoking these people. But then [billionaire television host and ‘birther’ enthusiast Donald] Trump comes along, and I really believe that the polling data, the internal polling data, the White House shows that the issue was starting to take place. You saw that poll yesterday, USA Today, 38 percent, 40 percent, whatever it was of the American people don’t think he’s born in this country. I think the polling data shifted, and it wasn’t all Republicans in that poll that showed that shockingly high number.” (Rush Limbaugh 4/27/2011) Limbaugh is referring to an April 26 poll conducted by the Gallup organization for USA Today that says 38 percent of Americans “definitely” believe Obama was born in the US, 18 percent say he “probably” was, 15 percent say he “probably” was born in another country, and 9 percent say he was “definitely” born in another country. (Page 4/26/2011) Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that for weeks, conservatives have demanded that Obama release the certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011). (Media Matters 4/28/2011)
John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, writes a brief column for the conservative National Review that says President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) because he wants to “enhance” the popularity of billionaire television host and rumored 2012 presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump has, in recent weeks, revitalized the “birther” controversy (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Pitney writes that the Obama administration apparently believes Trump would be an easy candidate to beat in the 2012 presidential campaign. Pitney references the 2008 attempt by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to convince listeners to cross party lines and vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, in the belief that “a prolonged nomination battle would weaken the Democrats.” Pitney writes: “A Trump candidacy could have a similar effect [on Republicans]. He has little chance of winning the nomination, but if he put a lot of resources into his campaign, he could prevent anyone else from clinching the race until very late in the season. The eventual nominee would be bloodied and… broke.” (Pitney 4/27/2011) Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that for weeks, conservatives have demanded that Obama release the certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011). (Media Matters 4/28/2011)
Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, who for years has stirred the “birther” controversy surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008, and August 4, 2009), appears on Fox Business Channel to discuss the release of President Obama’s “long form” certificate (see April 27, 2011). Using a poster-size reproduction of the certificate as a prop, Geller says the certificate is “actually not a birth certificate,” calling it a “certificate of live birth.” Host Eric Bolling insists that the certificate has been “Photoshopped” (i.e. altered using the graphics program Photoshop) because of a “green border” surrounding the certificate. Geller agrees that the border is “suspect.” Bolling says the certificate “opens up the can of worms that there are at least questions for it.” Both Bolling and Geller appear to be basing their “analysis” on the quickly-debunked claim that the “layering” of the PDF image of the certificate “proves” it is a fake (see April 27, 2011). Fox contributor Monica Crowley says billionaire real estage mogul and television host Donald Trump “forced the president’s hand to the point where he actually produced this document that we’re talking about.” She says Obama took a “direct slam at Donald Trump” by calling those who continue to question the legitimacy of his birth “sideshows and carnival barkers.” However, Crowley says, “we’ve got this document produced today, which means President Obama zero, carnival barker one.” Guest Keith Ablow agrees with Crowley that Trump deserves the credit for “forcing” Obama to release the certificate. Bolling says that Obama’s timing in releasing the certificate—on the same day that Trump appears in New Hampshire as part of what some consider to be his preparations to enter the 2012 presidential campaign—is obviously an attempt to upstage Trump. Ablow says there is some as-yet unknown reason why Obama has not released this “long form” certificate until now (Ablow does not inform viewers that Hawaiian state law prohibits the “long form” certificate from being given to anyone, and that Obama needed to get a special dispensation from the Hawaiian State Department to be given a copy—see July 1, 2009). Crowley cites the theory of author and conspiracist Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, September 21, 2010, January 18, 2011, and March 27-28, 2011), who is about to release a book that will purport to prove Obama is not a citizen; “I think what Obama was trying to do today,” she says, “is preempt that, try to steal the thunder away from this book that’s coming out, so that nobody will pay attention to the Corsi book.” Bolling informs viewers that the wife and son of the doctor who signed the birth certificate in 1961, who has since passed away, “had no idea” that he signed the certificate. “If you gave birth to the president of the United States,” Bolling says, “don’t you think your family would know about it?” Geller concludes the segment by citing an array of Obama’s “life documents” that she says have been kept out of the public eye (see September 11, 2008, Around June 28, 2010, and April 26, 2011), and accuses the media of “protecting this man” from scrutiny. (Media Matters 4/27/2011; Media Matters 4/27/2011) A day later, the progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that the doctor that signed the birth certificate died in 2003. Reporter Ben Dimiero will write: “Let that sink in for a second. At the time, Barack Obama was a little-known state senator in Illinois. If the doctor had told his family before he died that he delivered the future president, that would have spawned a much more interesting conspiracy theory (he’s a wizard!). Apparently Eric Bolling thinks obstetricians give their families a list of the most interesting people they delivered—with a special section for ‘potential future presidents’—before they die.” (Dimiero 4/28/2011) Two days later, Geller will label Obama “a b_stard, literally and figuratively” (see April 29, 2011).
President Obama releases his “long form” birth certificate for public view, in an attempt to put questions about his citizenship to rest. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says in a statement: “The president believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country.” In 2008, Obama released an official copy of his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008), but many so-called “birthers” have said that “short form” certificate did not fully prove his Hawaiian birth. In his statement, Pfeiffer notes that the “short form” certificate is “the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the Internet.… When any citizen born in Hawaii requests their birth certificate, they receive exactly what the president received. In fact, the document posted on the campaign Web site is what Hawaiians use to get a driver’s license from the state and the document recognized by the federal government and the courts for all legal purposes. That’s because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question.” Pfeiffer says: “At a time of great consequence for this country—when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue. The president’s hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country.… Therefore, the president directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting.” (Hawaii Department of Health 8/4/1961 ; Hartman 4/27/2011; White House 4/27/2011)
Signed, Certified as True and Valid - The certificate is signed by the delivery doctor, Obama’s mother, and the local registrar. It certifies that Barack Hussein Obama II was born at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961, to Stanley Ann Dunham Obama at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu. It does not mention religion. Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama, is noted as being born in Kenya, and his mother as being born in Wichita, Kansas. The Hawaiian registrar certifies the new photocopy of the document provided to the White House on April 25 as being a true and valid copy. The White House also releases a letter from Obama on April 22 requesting two certified copies of his original certificate of live birth. The Hawaii Department of Health does not, by law, release the actual birth certificate, but the department makes an exception for Obama given his “status as president of the United States.” Also released is a letter from Loretta Fuddy, Hawaii’s director of health, approving the request. In her approval letter, Fuddy wrote that she hopes the release “will end the numerous inquiries” received by her office. “Such inquiries have been disruptive to staff operations and have strained state resources,” Fuddy wrote. Obama’s personal lawyer, Judith Corley, flew to Hawaii to pick up the documents and brought them back to Washington. She returned with the documents around 5 p.m. April 26.
Obama: 'We Do Not Have Time for This Kind of Silliness' - Obama says during a morning press conference that he has been both amused and puzzled by the degree to which his place of birth has become an issue. “We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” he says. “This issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now. I think it started during the campaign. I have watched with bemusement, I’ve been puzzled at the degree at which this thing just kept on going.” The country needs to come together to work on critical issues, he says, but “we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
Trump Takes Credit, RNC Blames Obama for Controversy - Billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump has reignited the controversy in recent weeks (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 26, 2011, and April 26, 2011) as part of his apparent 2012 presidential campaign bid. Though neither Obama nor Pfeiffer mention Trump by name, he takes full credit for the release. “He should have done it a long time ago. I am really honored to play such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue,” Trump says during a visit to New Hampshire. Trump says he is not yet convinced of the certificate’s authenticity, saying that he and his people are “going to look at it. We have to see if it’s real, if it’s proper.… It’s amazing that all of a sudden it materializes. Why he didn’t do it when the Clintons asked for it. Why he didn’t do it when everyone else was asking about it, I don’t know.” However, Trump says he is “sure it’s the right deal” and is looking forward to moving on to more important issues such as OPEC and China. Trump and other “birthers” have alleged that the long form birth certificate contains information Obama wanted to hide from public view, when in fact the two different versions of the certificate contain virtually the same information. The long form includes the signatures of Obama’s mother and the attending physician. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus calls the issue a distraction, but blames Obama for playing “campaign politics” by addressing it. “The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy,” he says. “Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority—our economy.” (Hartman 4/27/2011; Pace 4/27/2011; Jackson 4/27/2011; Unruh 4/27/2011) Trump also demands that Obama release his complete college transcripts. (Real Clear Politics 4/27/2011)
Questions from CNN - Some observers feel the White House may have been spurred to release the certificate in part because of questions about the controversy from mainstream media reporters. On April 26, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked a question about Obama’s birth status by CNN’s Ed Henry, at the same time CNN’s Anderson Cooper was airing a “definitive investigation” into the controversy that debunked the “birther” conspiracy theory and attacked Trump for feeding the controversy. Carney called the question “preposterous” and the controversy “a distraction” that had been “settled,” but Henry continued to pursue the issue. (Linkins 4/26/2011)
An Associated Press report examines the issues surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate in the wake of Obama releasing his “long form” certificate for public scrutiny (see April 27, 2011) and finds racial overtones to the controversy. Writer Rachel Rose Hartman observes that while the controversy surrounding Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s birth status was short-lived and resolved by a single announcement from a set of lawyers (see March 14 - July 24, 2008), the controversy surrounding Obama’s birth status has carried on for nearly three years (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, Around June 28, 2010, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 28, 2011, and April 5, 2011). Hartman writes that Obama “has faced a relentless campaign questioning his US citizenship—and thereby the legitimacy of his presidency—that has disregarded the facts” (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). After Obama released his “long form” certificate, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz quickly announced her disbelief in the form, saying that the listing of Obama’s father as “African” cast doubt on the veracity of the document; she said that in 1961, the term that would have been used was “Negro” (see April 27, 2011). Hartman notes that many “birther” critics believe the movement’s “core tenets—and its stubborn resistance to evidence disproving those beliefs—can be traced to racial hostilities. The fundamental birtherist conviction, these critics say, is that an African-American can’t have legitimately won the presidency—and that his elevation to power therefore has to be the result of an elaborate subterfuge.” History professor Peniel Joseph says: “There is a real deep-seated and vicious racism at work here in terms of trying to de-legitimate the president.… This is more than just a conspiracy. I think this is fundamentally connected to white supremacism in this country.” Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. has called “this birther nonsense” “profoundly racist claptrap” (see April 1, 2011), Michael Tomasky has written in the British newspaper The Guardian that the birther conspiracy “had to be the only explanation for how this black man got to the White House.… And if you think race isn’t what this is about at its core… you are delusional” (see April 27, 2011). The Reverend Jesse Jackson noted yesterday that billionaire Donald Trump’s “birther” campaign is rooted in race, saying: “Any discussion of [Obama’s] birthplace is a code word. It calls upon ancient racial fears.” Trump, he said, “is now tapping into code-word fears that go far beyond a rational discourse” (see April 26, 2011). Trump has recently leveled allegations that Obama was only accepted into Columbia and Harvard Universities because of his race (see April 26, 2011). Hartman notes that while “[b]irthers emphatically deny such criticism… it’s difficult to apprehend the ongoing resistance to proof of Obama’s citizenship without crediting racial fear as a significant factor.” For years, the “birther” movement has insisted that the release of the “long form” certificate would settle the issue, but now that the document has been released, the same “birthers” either refuse to accept its validity or are insisting that Obama release a spate of other documents to prove his identity and citizenship, “a level of scrutiny that neither McCain nor Obama’s 43 predecessors in the Oval Office were expected to face” (see April 27, 2011). Trump and others are calling for Obama to release his college transcripts (see April 26, 2011), have alleged that Obama did not write his own memoirs, and, despite all evidence, continue to insist that he is a “closet Muslim” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008). Jackson and Peniel both note that never before has a sitting president’s nationality been questioned. A recent study found that racially biased whites are far more likely to view Obama as “less American” than Vice President Joe Biden, a white man. That assessment correlates with a profoundly lower view of Obama’s performance as president (see March 2011). National polls continue to find that almost half of Republican voters do not believe Obama was born in the US, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has blamed Obama for the “birther” controversy, says the issue is irrelevant. (Hartman 4/27/2011)
PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer interviews Dan Balz, a national political correspondent for the Washington Post. Balz attempts to explain why billionaire television host and entrepeneur Donald Trump has become such a media sensation by reviving the “birther” controversy (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Balz says: “I mean, I think that the press probably does bear some responsibility for this but there’s no question that what Donald Trump had done over the last month, in bringing this issue back to the forefront, at a time when I think most people thought it had been pretty well settled politically, not that—not that there wasn’t still some controversy, but that, for the most part, this wasn’t a live issue. But Donald Trump helped to make it a live issue. And all the press coverage attendant to that, some of it aimed at debunking what Donald Trump was saying, nonetheless contributed to this atmosphere.… [H]e is a master at drawing attention to himself and taking credit for things, whether he deserves it or not.” (PBS 4/27/2011) Peter Hart of the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes exception to Balz’s explanation. Hart writes: “‘Issues’ are not brought ‘to the forefront’ and made a ‘live issue’ by some series of accidents, or the physical properties of magnets. Media outlets make decisions about what to cover. In Balz’s world, Trump started talking and the press simply had to cover it. Trump didn’t make anything a ‘live issue’—people who have television stations and newspapers decided to treat him as if he is a serious person.” (Hart 4/28/2011)
The progressive media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, along with other media outlets, documents 30 years of racist issues surrounding billionaire celebrity Donald Trump (see April 14-15, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 28, 2011), who is using “birther” allegations to vault himself into a preliminary front-runner position for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Trump has touted his racial sensitivity, often discussing the importance of the civil rights movement and writing about his dream of an America unencumbered by “racism, discrimination against women, or discrimination against people based on sexual orientation.” Trump once donated office space to Jesse Jackson’s civil rights group, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, once hosted an NAACP convention party, and likes to be seen in public with African-American celebrities such as P. Diddy and Lenny Kravitz. (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 5/6/2011)
Justice Department Charges of Discrimination against Housing Applicants - In October 1973, Trump was still working with his father Fred Trump’s Trump Organization, which made millions from building thousands of units of middle-class housing in Brooklyn and Queens. Donald Trump had just been made president of the company. The Justice Department accused the Trump firm of serious violations of the Fair Housing Act, including refusing to rent or negotiate rentals “because of race and color,” misrepresenting to blacks that apartments were not available, and charging minorities higher rents. Donald Trump sued the federal government for making baseless charges, and accused the government of “trying to force [the firm] to rent to welfare recipients.” Trump added that if welfare recipients were allowed into his apartments in certain middle-class outer-borough neighborhoods, there would be a “massive fleeing from the city of not only our tenants, but communities as a whole.” A federal judge dismissed Trump’s lawsuit, calling it a waste of “time and paper,” and Trump settled with the Justice Department, not admitting guilt but agreeing to a number of conditions that would open Trump housing to more nonwhites. In 1978, the government charged Trump with failing to adhere to the agreement, saying that the Trump company “discriminated against blacks in the terms and conditions of rental, made statements indicating discrimination based on race, and told blacks that apartments were not available for inspection and rental when, in fact, they are.” In 1983, many Trump developments still had 95 percent white occupancies. (Elliott 4/28/2011; Baram 4/29/2011)
Called for Death Penalty for Blacks Accused of Rape - In 1989, Trump took out full-page ads calling for the death penalty for three African-American teenagers accused of raping a white jogger in Central Park. The three teenagers were later exonerated. One of the defendant’s lawyers, Colin Moore, compared Trump’s stance to the racist attitudes expressed in the 1930s during the infamous “Scottsboro Boys” case. Trump tried to mend relations by visiting a black woman who had been raped and thrown off the roof of a building in the hospital, promising to pay her medical expenses.
Trump: Blacks 'Have the Actual Advantage Today' - Later in 1989, Trump told NBC interviewer Bryant Gumbel, “If I was starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black because I really do believe they have the actual advantage today.” Orlando Sentinel columnist David R. Porter responded: “Too bad Trump can’t get his wish. Then he’d see that being educated, black and over 21 isn’t the key to the Trump Tower. You see there’s still that little ugly problem of racism.” (Baram 4/29/2011)
Trump: 'Laziness Is a Trait in Blacks' - John R. O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino who in 1991 published a biography of Trump, wrote that Trump said “laziness is a trait in blacks,” and once exclaimed: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” In 1997, Trump admitted to a Playboy interviewer that “[t]he stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true,” and went on to call O’Donnell “a f_cking loser” whom Trump barely knew. (Baram 4/29/2011; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 5/6/2011)
Washington Post managing editor Bob Woodward says that billionaire television host and real estate mogul Donald Trump “is aspiring to be the new Joe McCarthy.” Woodward, appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe talk show hosted by former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, is comparing Trump, who has for months attacked President Obama’s supposed lack of US citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), with former Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who used false allegations of Communist sympathies to ruin the careers and reputations of dozens of lawmakers and other public figures. Woodward calls the “birther” controversy “manufactured,” and says “the news media has got to get a handle on itself on this.” As for Trump, Woodward says: “Let’s call things what they are. Donald Trump, I think, was or maybe still is aspiring to be the new Joe McCarthy. No evidence, but you make an assertion and you look at these things Trump said… people interviewing him at that moment should have said, ‘What’s your evidence?’ Trump has no evidence, and when you have no evidence you have nothing and the discussion of the subject should end.” (Schneider 4/28/2011)
Chris Matthews, hosting MSNBC’s Hardball, interviews columnists Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune and Eric Boehlert of the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters about the conservative reaction to the recent release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Matthews focuses on a recent segment from Fox Business Channel featuring host Eric Bolling and his guest, conservative blogger Pamela Geller, where the two insisted that the newly released form is a fraud that has been “Photoshopped” (see April 27, 2011). Matthews calls their conspiracy theory “absolute garbage,” and Boehlert says Bolling “wants to prove he’s got the crazy niche” to replace the outgoing Glenn Beck on Fox News. Boehlert also notes that for weeks, Fox News hosts and guests have demanded that Obama release the “long form” certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011), “and yesterday he does, and you turn on Fox News: ‘How dare he release his long form birth certificate!‘… This is a game that’s being played, a very dishonest, hateful, and very disturbing game that the right-wing media is playing with American politics.” Matthews then plays a brief clip from a recent MSNBC broadcast where “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz tried, and failed, to raise new questions about Obama’s Social Security number (see April 27, 2011); Boehlert says: “She’s moving the goalposts, obviously. Man, that’s what conspiracists do, I mean, this is the textbook example of what we saw yesterday. As you said, it wasn’t just the hard-core professionals like her. It was the right-wing media, it was AM talk radio, it was a lot of the Internet, and obviously it was Fox News. Nobody apologized, nobody conceded the fact, they just kept spinning and spinning.” Matthews plays a clip of Donald Trump questioning Obama’s acceptance into Columbia University and Harvard Law School (see April 26, 2011). Page says in response: “I’ll tell you how black folks feel about it, it sounds like he’s saying [Obama is] an affirmative action baby (see April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011).… You haven’t gotta be a black American just to be proud of the fact that this fellow was able to work his way up and make it through Harvard and make it to the White House, and… Trump is just pouring cold water on that whole thing, and I think now he’s just embarrassing the whole [Republican] Party.” Matthews says the crux of Trump’s argument about Obama’s college acceptance hinges on the fact that Obama is African-American, and says Trump would never use such an argument against a white political opponent. Boehlert says Trump is another cog in the organized effort to delegitimize Obama as a president (see April 27, 2011). (Media Matters 4/28/2011) Bolling will indeed replace Beck on Fox News, as the co-host of a roundtable discussion show entitled The Five. (Real Clear Politics 6/30/2011)
Johann Hari, a commentator for the London Independent, pens a caustic column about the American “birther” conspiracy theory and Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepeneur and television host who has used the controversy to vault himself to the forefront of the Republican Party’s group of 2012 presidential contenders (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Hari says that Trump’s meteoric ascendancy within the Republican Party proves “that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. They have long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals—and it turns out they were onto something. Every six months, the Republican Party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.” Hari cites former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and current US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) as previous “stops” on the Republicans’ backwards slide, until the party got to Trump as its current representative. “A survey suggests he is the most popular candidate among Republican voters,” Hari writes. “It’s not hard to see why. Trump is every trend in Republican politics over the past 35 years taken to its logical conclusion. He is the Republican id, finally entirely unleashed from all restraint and all reality.” Hari lists four major trends that he says the modern Republican Party reflects, and that Trump epitomizes.
'Naked Imperialism' - Hari says Trump advocates what he calls the first trend of modern Republican ideology, “naked imperialism,” and cites Trump’s promise to, as president, simply “go in” to Libya “and take the oil.… I would take the oil and stop this baby stuff.” On Iraq, he has said: “We stay there, and we take the oil.… In the old days, when you have a war and you win, that nation’s yours.” Hari says that in Trump’s view, a view held by many Republicans, “the world is essentially America’s property, inconveniently inhabited by foreigners squatting over oil fields. Trump says America needs to ‘stop what’s going on in the world. The world is just destroying our country. These other countries are sapping our strength.’ The US must have full spectrum dominance.”
'Dog-Whistle Prejudice' - Along with his imperialism, Hari says, Trump has a penchant for what he calls “dog-whistle prejudice—pitched just high enough for frightened white Republicans to hear it.” Citing Trump’s support for the “birther” theory, Hari writes: “The Republican primary voters heard the message right—the black guy [President Obama] is foreign. He’s not one of us.”
'Raw Worship of Wealth' - The third trend that Hari says endears Trump to Republicans is his “raw worship of wealth as an end in itself—and [the exemption of the wealthy] from all social responsibility.” Republicans seem not to care that Trump, born into wealth, has bankrupted four businesses, repeatedly failed to pay his taxes, and, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Clay Johnson, has made the bulk of his fortune from “stiffing his creditors” and “from government subsidies and favours for his projects—which followed large donations to the campaigns of both parties, sometimes in the very same contest. Trump denies these charges and presents himself as an entrepreneur ‘of genius.’” However, Hari says Republicans seem to believe that “the accumulation of money is proof in itself of virtue, however it was acquired. The richest 1 percent pay for the party’s campaigns, and the party in turn serves their interests entirely.… In America today, a janitor can pay more income tax than Donald Trump—and the Republicans regard that not as a source of shame, but of pride.”
Imposing America's Will on Reality - The fourth trend, Hari writes, “is to insist that any fact inconvenient to your world-view either doesn’t exist, or can be overcome by pure willpower.” He cites the example of the US’s imminent need to extend its debt ceiling in order to avoid default. While almost every economist in the world says the US going into default will trigger “another global economic crash,” Trump “snaps back: ‘What do economists know? Most of them aren’t very smart.’” Trump says “it’s so easy” to deal with the upward spiral of oil prices merely by calling a meeting of the leaders of the OPEC nations and, as he has said: “I’m going to look them in the eye and say: ‘Fellows, you’ve had your fun. Your fun is over.‘… It’s so easy. It’s all about the messenger.” He will stop China from manipulating its currency merely by ordering it to do so, and derides any mention of how much American debt China owns. Hari writes: “This is what the Republican core vote wants to be told. The writer Matthew Yglesias calls it ‘the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics.’ It’s named after the DC comics superhero the Green Lantern, who can only use his superpowers when he ‘overcomes fear’ and shows confidence—and then he can do anything. This is Trump’s view. The whiny world simply needs to be bullied into submission by a more assertive America—or the world can be fired and he’ll find a better one.”
Expressing the Underlying Core Beliefs of the GOP - Trump will not get the Republican nomination, Hari believes, not because Republicans reject his premises, but “because he states these arguments too crudely for mass public consumption. He takes the underlying whispered dogmas of the Reagan, Bush, and Tea Party years and shrieks them through a megaphone. The nominee will share similar ideas, but express them more subtly.” Hari points to the budget proposal by US Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), one supported by every House Republican and most Senate Republicans, which would, among other things, halve taxes on America’s most wealthy, end corporate taxation, end taxation on dividends and inheritance, and pass that tax burden onto the middle class and poor by gutting spending on food stamps, healthcare for the poor and the elderly, and basic services. The Ryan budget would send the US deficit soaring, though Ryan, embracing the tenet of imposing his beliefs on reality, insists it would cut the deficit. Hari concludes: “The Republican Party today isn’t even dominated by market fundamentalism. This is a crude Nietzcheanism, dedicating to exalting the rich as an overclass and dismissing the rest.” (Hari 4/28/2011)
Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly denies there were ever any racial connotations to the “birther” controversy surrounding President Obama’s US citizenship. On his show The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly notes that many “defenders of Obama labeled the whole thing racist,” and plays clips from MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, CBS’s Bob Schieffer, The View’s Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg (see April 27, 2011), MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter, and BET host Tavis Smiley, many of them focusing on billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump and his pronouncements (see April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). O’Reilly’s guests, Fox analyst Alicia Menendez and Republican strategist Margaret Hoover, join in denouncing what Hoover calls “the most predictable” reactions imaginable from “the entire left.” Hoover says that liberals always cry “racist” when they want to criticize conservatives. Hoover does admit that Trump’s claims that Obama got into Ivy League schools due to affirmative action, and the “widespread movement to delegitimize the president to say he’s not American enough (see April 27, 2011), I think it’s not unrelated to race.” O’Reilly disagrees, saying that questions about Obama’s college career are different from “calling him out because of his skin color.” Trump may be “stoking the discomfort that some people have with [Obama’s] skin color,” Hoover says, a remark that draws a snort of derision from O’Reilly, who says he knows Trump well and does not believe he is a racist. Menendez, described by an on-screen chyron as a member of a “center-left think tank,” agrees with Hoover that some of the comments and charges leveled by “birthers” may aggravate the racial tensions that exist in America today. O’Reilly cuts her off and says he does not see “any of these racial confrontations in this country, and I do this every day.” He demands proof of her contention. “I’m not saying it’s just about Barack Obama,” Menendez says, “I’m saying it’s generally about people trying to figure out what to do with this change in America.” Menendez says that there is “some intertwining” between the birther controversy and racist attitudes, but calls the comments by Schulz and others “very radical and obscure the conversation we should be having.” O’Reilly calls the charges of racism “vicious,” and presses for agreement from both Hoover and Menendez. Menendez attempts to qualify, calling the charges a response to “a vicious and hateful thing coming out of the right. And there were very few people like you who were being honest and calling it what it was.” O’Reilly says that the “bad behavior” from the right does not justify “bad behavior” from the left. He says the charges that “the birth certificate was phony” had no connection to racism at all, and continues to lambast “the left” for trying to tie racism into the controversy. Menendez asks if O’Reilly believes that “it was just coincidental” that Obama, the first African-American president, was targeted as not “being a real American” by right-wing opponents. “That’s just a weird coincidence,” she says. O’Reilly says the entire controversy was “borne out of hatred for the man.… The people who hate Barack Obama will latch on to anything. It’s not because of his skin color.” O’Reilly concludes that the “far left” did not act “in a responsible way” in challenging the controversy “as we did [presumably referring to his show]. We just took it apart” (see July 29, 2009). (Media Matters 4/28/2011) An Associated Press analysis has found that the “birther” controversy was fueled in large part by racism (see April 27, 2011), and liberals (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 28, 2011), moderates (see April 27, 2011), and conservatives (see April 27, 2011) alike have decried the racism at the heart of “birtherism.” Author John Avlon has said that “birthers” will never give up their conspiracy theories because even Republicans who disbelieve the claims and do not themselves harbor racist beliefs will not denounce the claims and the racism behind them (see April 28, 2011). Some conservative media outlets, including Fox News, are launching a new series of attacks on Obama through his father, vilifying the senior Obama because of his alleged “penchant” for “white women” (see April 28, 2011, April 29, 2011, and April 29, 2011). And conservative radio host Laura Ingraham says the release of the “long form” certificate “proves” Obama intends to make his re-election bid about race (see April 28, 2011).
Author and columnist John Avlon says the “birther conspiracy theory should now be placed on the ash heap of presidential derangement syndromes that date back to at least the John Birch Society’s founder declaring President Dwight David Eisenhower a ‘dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy’—or, a Soviet spy.” However, this will not happen, he predicts, because in part no respected Republican lawmaker or pundit will denounce it. “Today, because the fringe is blurring with the base, conservative leaders seem afraid to confront the unhinged extremists in their midst,” he writes. Avlon writes that the swirl of conspiracies and allegations contained in the “birther” controversy include a number of related conspiracies—Obama is a “Marxist Manchurian Candidate” (see May 7, 2010] and April 27, 2011), he is a “closet Muslim” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, April 18, 2008, and April 26, 2011), and others. However, he continues, “[i]t’s worth noting… that the birther equivalent of the Bush years—the 9/11 ‘Truthers’—would never have been allowed to make such inroads into national debates or presidential politics in 2004 or 2008, by Republicans or Democrats.” The recent “bump in the polls” earned by billionaire television host and rumored presidential candidate Donald Trump for his aggressive promotion of the “birther” conspiracy theory (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011) worried some Republicans, including former Bush administration political chief Karl Rove. The polls reflected what Avlon calls “evidence of the real costs that came with encouraging Obama Derangement Syndrome for political gain—the inmates start to run the asylum.” However, the birther controversy will continue unabated, he writes, no matter what documents or proof Obama releases (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 29, 2009, April 11, 2011, April 25, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Now the birthers are moving towards Trump’s insistence that Obama is hiding something suspicious in his college records (see April 26, 2011), “an affirmative action dig that tries to deepen the narrative of Obama as a monstrous fraud.” Avlon concludes: “History will be more unforgiving and see the birther conspiracy more clearly than we have in our contemporary debates. It will be hard to miss the fact that so much time and energy was spent trying to prove the illegitimacy and un-American-ness of our first black president. It will seem shameful. And it is.” (Avlon 4/28/2011)
Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris, writing for the online news outlet Politico, say that President Obama’s decision to present his “long form” birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship (see April 27, 2011) is a “decisive new turn in the centuries-long American history of political accusation and innuendo. By directly and coolly engaging a debate with his most fevered critics, Obama offered the most unmistakable validation ever to the idea that we are living in an era of public life with no referee—and no common understandings between fair and unfair, between relevant and trivial, or even between facts and fantasy.” The authors note that presidents have been pursued by “[l]urid conspiracy theories” for centuries. However, until now, those presidents have “benefited from a widespread consensus that some types of personal allegations had no place in public debate unless or until they received some imprimatur of legitimacy—from an official investigation, for instance, or from a detailed report by a major news organization.” That is no longer the case, they say (see April 27, 2011). Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says: “There are no more arbiters of truth. So whatever you can prove factually, somebody else can find something else and point to it with enough ferocity to get people to believe it. We’ve crossed some Rubicon into the unknown.” The writers note their difficulty in envisioning former President Clinton “coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster—never mind official rulings of suicide—were wrong” (see April 27, 2011), or former President George W. Bush giving a press conference denying allegations that “he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.” Obama’s choice to release the documentation and even to make a personal appearance to announce it are a powerful indication that the political dynamic has changed. Obama advisers explain that he made the decision to do so “because of the radical reordering of the political-media universe over the past 15 years, or so. The decline of traditional media and the rise of viral emails and partisan Web and cable TV platforms has meant the near-collapse of common facts, believed across the political spectrum.” Debunking the myth of Obama’s “foreign birth” means nothing to a large percentage of Americans who still remain unconvinced, or firmly believe the myth, the authors write. After trying to ignore it and mock it into irrelevance, they write, Obama “finally gave in and affirmed a new truth of politics in the Internet era: Nothing can be dismissed and anything that poses a political threat must be confronted directly.” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says: “We’re dealing with a lot of the same things Clinton and frankly Bush dealt with, but we’re dealing with them at 1,000 times the speed and with fewer referees. That is the downside of the disaggregation of the media. If you don’t want to believe what someone is telling you, you can go somewhere else. If you believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president is not American, you can go somewhere to find somebody to validate that.” Another Obama adviser, who remains anonymous, adds: “Clinton never had to deal with a fully formed Internet. [Conservative Web gossip Matt] Drudge’s power was born out of the revelations of 1998. A fully automated cable TV universe with the Internet is something that [Clinton] never had to deal with.” Clinton’s press secretary Joe Lockhart says: “You’ve lost the ability to starve a story to death. So what you have to do is raise the price of those who are making the charges. If Donald Trump is out there saying this, you’ve got to make him pay a price for throwing a bomb before too much collateral damage is done.… You literally can’t laugh anything off. There’s nothing neutral in politics. It’s either helping you or hurting you. You’ve got to make sure it’s helping you or you’re going to lose.” The authors note that politicians are learning to use this phenomenon to their own advantage. While Washington Republicans often bemoan the ascendancy of “fringe” pundits like Fox News’s Glenn Beck, the authors write, “they relish the way Beck and ideological confederates excite the GOP base, a contributing factor in the party’s strong performance in 2010.” The authors also point to Democrats’ willingness to allow “liberal commentators” to push for the truth behind George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the National Guard. The authors claim that the Obama team “enjoys giving the stage to the GOP’s most divisive voices,” noting that Gibbs and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel often called conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh “the de facto leader of the Republican Party.” Obama, and his successors, will have to do things previous presidents have never considered, from appearing on less “serious” talk shows such as those hosted by Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, or making appearances on networks such as the sports broadcaster ESPN. “It’s hard to see a president doing those things 10 or 20 years ago, but it’s become almost a requirement now,” Gibbs says. It is hard to know where to draw the line, Gibbs continues. “Does it become incumbent to prove everything wrong? You have to be very careful to not fall into that trap because you’ll spend all of your time and energy chasing your own tail.” Pfeiffer says most open-minded Americans will take the “long form” certificate as the evidence required to settle the issue: “There will be some segment of the population who will believe what they’re going to believe, regardless of anything else. But for the majority of the country, we have the capacity to correct the record and convince people of the truth. It’s not as easy as it used to be, but it’s possible.” Pfeiffer notes the “huge amount of time and energy” spent on dealing with the “birther” issue, time better spent, he says, on issues confronting the country. Former Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove says the Obama administration has attempted to use the “birther” controversy against Republicans: “The president himself has hoped Republicans would continue to talk about it, thereby damaging their own credibility. It was a useful diversion (see April 27, 2011). But take a look at recent polls. The problem was the view was taking hold among independents. He got worried it was about to spin out of control” (see April 27, 2011). Rove says Obama was attempting to “play rope-a-dope with Republicans,” a charge Pfeiffer denies (see April 28, 2011). “Up until a month ago, nobody really asked for the long form. It was fringe. It was a settled issue for 99 percent of the country.” Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer says: “It’s a terrible problem for the body politic. People like me who have been or are in the arena have an obligation to speak out against people in both parties who push untruths” (see January 25, 2001, January 25-27, 2001, and April 18, 2001). “The political discourse is much worse now, but that’s not always to the detriment of the so-called victim. In this case, President Obama came out looking better.” Lockhart agrees, saying: “Look at the rogue’s gallery of Clinton accusers. Most of them blew themselves up.” Lockhart acknowledges that for some, the issue will never be settled (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 29, 2011). “They’ll probably ask for the first diaper. They’ll want to see the DNA.” (Martin and Harris 4/28/2011)
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham tells her listeners that President Obama’s decision to present his “long form” birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship (see April 27, 2011) proves his 2012 re-election campaign will hinge on race. After playing a montage of audio clips from commentators accusing Obama of racism, or saying that his campaign will focus on race, she tells her audience: “It’s official. The Obama campaign is going to run on race. No? They might not say that, but let there be no misunderstanding of where this is going. This is going right to the heart of liberalism. Liberals see people, not as individuals who are capable of anything if given the opportunity, and freed up and loosened from the bonds of government regulation and bureaucratic restraints. No. They see people as a certain color, or a certain gender, or a certain sexual orientation. They have to be put in these boxes. The favorites boxes of the bean counters. Liberals have always looked at people that way. The truth about race, and this president, is not a pretty truth.… The truth about this administration and race goes right to the core of what liberalism has done to the black family, to minorities in general. The great diversion of liberalists has always been to drop the charges of racism, the spurious and the negative and the perjorative charges of racism [against conservatives], every time they are proven to be incorrect and the way they approach a problem” (see September 4, 1949, and After, March 12, 1956 and After, 1969-1971, 1978-1996, 1980, 1981, March 15, 1982, 1983, June-September 1988, 1990, September 1995, August 16, 1998, March 1-2, 2001, August 29, 2001, March 15, 2002, July 15, 2002, August 2002, September 26, 2002 and After, August 5, 2003, September 28 - October 2, 2003, May 17, 2004, May 18, 2004, October 9-13, 2004, November 15, 2004, November 26, 2004, December 5-8, 2004, December 8, 2004, May 10, 2005, September 28-October 1, 2005, September 30 - October 1, 2005, September 30, 2005, 2006, March 29, 2006, December 2006, January 19, 2007 and After, January 24, 2007, April 2007, April 2, 2007, July 22, 2007, August 21, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 24, 2008, January 6-11, 2008, November 10, 2008, January 25, 2008, January 31, 2008, February 1, 2008, February 28, 2008, May 19, 2008, June 2, 2008, June 6, 2008, June 26, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, August 4, 2008, August 4, 2008, August 19, 2008, August 25, 2008, October 7, 2008, October 20, 2008, October 22, 2008, October 28, 2008, November 18, 2008, January 18, 2009, February 24-26, 2009, March 3, 2009, April 7-8, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27, 2009, May 27-29, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 29, 2009, May 31, 2009, June 2, 2009, June 5, 2009, June 7, 2009, June 12, 2009, June 20, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 19, 2009, September 2009, September 14, 2009, October 13, 2009, February 25, 2010, March 20, 2010, July 14, 2010, July 15, 2010, September 11, 2010, September 12, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After, September 15, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 21, 2010, September 24, 2010, October 22-23, 2010, November 9, 2010, November 12, 2010, December 22, 2010, January 14, 2011, February 20, 2011, March 2011, March 19-24, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 5, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Liberals, Ingraham says, rely on racial politics, divisiveness, and “class warfare” to succeed in the political arena. “[I]n the end,” she says, “it’s kind of all they have, that and abortion.” She derides people “on the left” for attacking billionaire television host and enthusiastic “birther” Donald Trump for being racist (see April 14-15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Any such charges, she says, are ridiculous. But those charges will be used by anyone who criticizes Trump for his challenge to Obama’s citizenship, she predicts, and cites Trump’s recent exhortation for Obama to “get off the basketball court” and focus on national issues as an example of an unfair charge of racism (see April 27, 2011). “And the very thing the left always starts to accuse the right of is what they are most guilty of,” she says. (Media Matters 4/28/2011) Ingraham has had her own issues with racism and gender (see 1984, April 1997, and July 17, 2009).
Washington Post Style columnist Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel (.com), lambasts billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump for exhibiting a pattern of sexism throughout his business and entertainment career. As her first example, she cites “the Trump rule,” which was described by conservative Miss USA winner Carrie Prejean in 2009. Trump owns the Miss USA beauty pageant and exercises a strong degree of control over it, including taking part in selecting contestants. Prejean wrote in her memoir that Trump required potential contestants to “parade” in front of him so he could sort them into two groups: those he found sexually appealing, and those he did not. Prejean wrote: “Many of the girls found this exercise humiliating. Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after [Trump] left, devastated to have failed even before the competition really began… even those of us who were among the chosen couldn’t feel very good about it—it was as though we had been stripped bare.” Holmes calls Prejean’s description “[s]trong stuff, made even more provocative considering it comes from a woman who made her career participating in events known for their focus on aesthetic appeal.” In early April 2011, New York Times columnist Gail Collins cited the example of a column she wrote chiding Trump, and his response—sending her a photograph of herself with his words “Face of a Dog!” scrawled across it (see April 1-8, 2011). Trump has asked the male contestants on his reality television series The Apprentice to rate their female counterparts based on appearance; in 2005, according to one female contestant, Trump told her, “I bet you make a great wife.” In 2007, he attacked actress Angelina Jolie by disparaging her sexual history, telling CNN host Larry King, “[S]he’s been with so many guys… I just don’t even find her attractive.” That same year, he inked a deal with Fox to develop a reality show called Lady or a Tramp? in which he would school “out-of-control young women” in what Holmes calls “the art of becoming modern-day Eliza Doolittles.” The show was never produced. In 2006, Trump attacked comedian Rosie O’Donnell, calling her a “big, fat pig” and an “animal” after she criticized him on the air. Trump once said of his daughter, Ivanka, “She does have a very nice figure… if [she] weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Holmes writes that Trump’s recent reversal of his position on abortion—he now opposes it—is rooted in his sexism, though he knows little about the legal underpinnings of it; he recently demanded to know of an MSNBC interviewer what abortion law has to do with a woman’s right to privacy. In early 2011, Trump confidant Michael Cohen explained his boss’s change on abortion thusly: “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives.” Holmes concludes by citing Trump’s statement to an Esquire reporter in 1991, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of [expletive].” (Holmes 4/29/2011)
The annual White House Correspondents Dinner is the scene of a “roast” of birther advocate Donald Trump, who has for months called President Obama’s US citizenship into question, by Obama. The dinner is traditionally a venue where politicians, journalists, and pundits have fun at one another’s expense. (Daily Beast 5/1/2011) After the dinner, the New York Times reports that Obama “zings” Trump during his presentation. (Cooper 4/30/2011)
Obama Zings Trump, 'Birther' Controversy - Obama begins his presentation by noting that he has recently released the “long form” version of his birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), which has quieted some (but not all) critics. Obama presents what he calls his “official birth video” to “put all doubts to rest,” and shows a clip from the Disney animated film The Lion King depicting the triumphant birth of the lion Simba. He then says, to repeated bursts of laughter: “I want to make clear to the Fox News table: That was a joke. That was not my real birth video. That was a children’s cartoon. Call Disney if you don’t believe me. They have the original long-form version.” He mentions US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), another “birther” (see April 20, 2011) who is “thinking about running for president, which is weird because I hear she was born in Canada.” After the laughter subsides, he says: “Yes, Michele, this is how it starts. Just letting you know.” (White House 5/1/2011; Daily Beast 5/1/2011) (Bachmann, as Obama and others in the room are well aware, was born in Iowa.) (Bruner 10/20/2009) Obama then turns his attention to Trump, who like Bachmann is in attendance. “Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately,” Obama says, “but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter—like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?” Obama is referring to a triad of popular conspiracy theories that assert the various Apollo moon landings were faked in California sound studios; Roswell, New Mexico, was the site of an alien landing in the 1950s; and rap stars “Biggie” Smalls and Tupac Shakur were not murdered, but are alive and in hiding. Obama continues to address Trump, citing the NBC show Celebrity Apprentice, which Trump hosts: “But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example—no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’—at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf [two celebrity contestants on the show]. You fired [contestant] Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir. Well handled.” The audience roars with laughter, while Trump attempts to smile, but glowers and looks uncomfortable. Obama finishes his joshing at Trump’s expense with displaying an image of what the White House might look like if Trump were to become president, drawing a huge round of laughter. He concludes the lighter portion of his presentation by showing a video of him being forced to give speeches without a teleprompter, which includes a number of presidential “bloopers” from earlier speeches.
Praises Soldiers, Storm Survivors, Journalists - Obama closes his presentation on a serious note, lauding the American servicemen and servicewomen “who are serving in uniform overseas in the most extraordinary of circumstances,” noting the terrible devastation suffered by people in Alabama and other Southern states who were hit by multiple tornadoes and powerful storms, and praising the journalists who cover such difficult stories: “You know, in the last months, we’ve seen journalists threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable. And through it all, we’ve seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth. That’s what you do. At your best that’s what journalism is. That’s the principle that you uphold. It is always important, but it’s especially important in times of challenge, like the moment that America and the world is facing now. So I thank you for your service and the contributions that you make. And I want to close by recognizing not only your service, but also to remember those that have been lost as a consequence of the extraordinary reporting that they’ve done over recent weeks. They help, too, to defend our freedoms and allow democracy to flourish. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.” (Cooper 4/30/2011; White House 5/1/2011; Daily Beast 5/1/2011) The other featured presenter is Saturday Night Live head writer Seth Meyers, who spends some time mocking Obama, other White House members, and some of the journalists in attendance, but spends most of his time making fun of Trump. “Donald Trump has been saying that he’ll run for president as a Republican—which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke,” he opens, drawing a wave of laughter. One of his most popular laugh lines is: “Donald Trump said recently he has ‘a great relationship with the blacks’ (see April 14-15, 2011. But unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken.” Even Obama dissolves in laughter at this line. (Grove 5/1/2011; Daily Beast 5/1/2011) By the time the presentation is over, Trump is, in the words of the New York Times, sitting “grimly unsmiling” and “grimacing” through the mockery. Trump is so visibly upset that the others at his table stop smiling and laughing; a reporter from New York magazine, citing guests sitting near Trump’s table, writes that his “mood shifted from playing along to unvarnished anger.” (Cooper 4/30/2011; McMorris-Santoro 5/1/2011)
Former Democratic Governor: Trump's 'Bubble Has Burst' - Veteran correspondent Lloyd Grove, writing for the online news outlet The Daily Beast, writes that Obama, “in a manner of speaking, deftly slit [Trump’s] throat, cut out his entrails, set him ablaze, and scraped what was left off the presidential shoe.” Before Obama’s presentation, Trump seemed to be enjoying himself at the dinner, “[b]ut after Obama finished with him—and the evening’s paid entertainer, [Meyers], stomped on the remains—a scowling Trump and his frowning model-wife bolted out of their chairs in the basement ballroom, pushed their way toward the exit with their security team, and disappeared into the cruel Washington night.” CNN host and former Governor Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) says, apparently referring to Trump’s presidential aspirations: “That was very serious. I think that bubble has burst.” (Grove 5/1/2011) Trump says of Obama’s presentation, “It was very good,” but calls Meyers “a stutterer.” (McMorris-Santoro 5/1/2011)
New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman profiles Fox News chairman Roger Ailes (see October 7, 1996), who also serves as a Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988). According to close friends and advisers to Ailes interviewed by Sherman, Ailes wants far more than the continued ratings and advertiser success of Fox News—he wants the network to steer one of its own into the White House in 2012 (see October 2008). He is tremendously influential; a Republican strategist tells Sherman: “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger. Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.”
Letdown? - Ailes has been keenly disappointed in the results of his network’s official and unofficial candidates so far. Former Alaska governor and Fox commentator Sarah Palin (see September 15-16, 2010), who has not yet announced her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, is polling at around 12 percent among Republican voters. Official presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and Rick Santorum, a former senator, who both are commentators for Fox, have even lower numbers, at 10 percent and 2 percent respectively. Ailes has asked Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), who is not a Fox employee, to run; until recently, Fox News was enthusiastically promoting the putative presidential run of billionaire “birther” Donald Trump (see March 17, 2011). Ailes has envisioned General David Petraeus as a potential candidate, but Petraeus has instead accepted the post of CIA director. “He thinks things are going in a bad direction,” says a Republican close to Ailes. “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of [President] Obama is a disaster.” None of the current crop of candidates meets Ailes’s expectations. Ailes is particularly disappointed in Palin; according to the same Republican, Ailes considers her “an idiot”: “He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.” After Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January 2011, and other media outlets focused on Palin’s use of gunsight graphics to “target” Giffords and other vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 election (see March 24, 2010), according to Sherman, “Ailes recognized that a Fox brand defined by Palin could be politically vulnerable.” After the Giffords shooting, Ailes told an interviewer, “I told all of our guys, ‘Shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually.’” Ailes was infuriated when Palin refused his advice to remain quiet until after the memorial service, and accused her critics of committing “blood libel,” a phrase often seen as anti-Semitic. The problem with Palin was further exacerbated when she argued about the amount of work Fox expects her to do: she does not want to host special broadcasts or other tasks the network expects of her. In March 2011, Fox suspended the contracts of Gingrich and Santorum so they could run their campaigns without legal or ethical entanglements. Shortly thereafter, Huckabee chose to remain at Fox and abandon his plans for a primary challenge. The network is still waiting for Palin’s decision whether to run for president.
Creation of the Tea Party - While Ailes and Fox News did not directly create the “tea party” “grassroots” movement, Ailes was involved in its creation and promotion from its outset (see February 19, 2009, February 27, 2009, and April 15, 2009). Ailes has always been somewhat leery of having Fox News too closely associated with the burgeoning movement (see March 13, 2009 and After, March 23-24, 2009, April 2, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 8, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 12, 2009, and September 12, 2010), and at one point banned Fox News host Sean Hannity from hosting a tea party rally. However, according to Sal Russo, a former Reagan aide and the founder of the national Tea Party Express tour, “There would not have been a tea party without Fox.” Fox News has promoted a number of successful “tea party” candidates (see May 14, 2008 - February 2010), including former host John Kasich (see March 27, 2008 - June 1, 2009 and After), who won the Ohio gubernatorial election in 2010. Before that election, Gingrich, still a Fox News commentator at the time, said that he was confident the “tea party” would evolve into “the militant wing of the Republican Party” (see April 21, 2010). Ailes used some of the same “astroturf” tactics (see February 27, 2009 and April 14, 2009) in developing the “tea party” as he did when he represented tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds, creating phony, seemingly independent “front” groups to push the “tea party” messages in the media. (Sherman 5/22/2011)
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) modifies his previously stated stance that union janitors at public schools should be fired and poor schoolchildren should be put to maintenance and custodial tasks in their places (see November 18, 2011 and After). Gingrich now says that he recognizes some custodial jobs are dangerous, and says that poor students should be limited to jobs such as cleaning bathrooms. During a campaign rally, he asks, “What if they became assistant janitors and their jobs were to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?” Gingrich goes on to say that making poor kids work as janitors is similar to a successful program, Earning by Learning, that pays children to read books. He also says that poor children “have no habit of work” and no knowledge of how to make an income “unless it’s illegal.” He says: “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.” Gingrich then goes on to attack child labor laws and the “liberals” who support them, saying: “This is something that no liberal wants to deal with. Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.… If we are all endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness, that has to apply to the poorest neighborhoods in the poorest counties, and I am prepared to find something that works, that breaks us out of the cycles we have now to find a way for poor children to work and earn honest money.” Alex Seitz-Wald of the progressive news Web site Think Progress responds, “Of course, reading books is not hard labor and is directly relevant to education—cleaning bathrooms is not.” (Seitz-Wald 12/1/2011; Easley 12/1/2011; Dover 12/1/2011) The next day, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly opines, “He seemed to try to clarify that… and say what he’s talking about is maybe having kids be assistants to those union members.” Jeremy Holden of the progressive media watchdog site Media Matters says of Gingrich’s entire proposal: “Here’s a thought. What if we focused on fixing the economy and schools, and the students’ ‘job’ was to go to school?” (Holden 12/2/2011) Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera later writes that it is obvious Gingrich knows little to nothing about the daily lives of poor people: “If he knew about the culture of poverty… Gingrich never would have proposed suspending child labor laws and putting ghetto public school students to work as junior janitors in fifth or sixth Grade. Like his earlier calls to bring back orphanages and to deny support to unmarried woman who have children while on welfare, this Gingrich proposal is crass and creepy.” Rivera notes that many poor families have breadwinners who work long hours in menial, physically demanding jobs, so poor children have many, many working role models in their lives. “[T]hese children know about work,” Rivera observes. (Rivera 12/8/2011) Gingrich later says that he will address the issue of poor children and work by taking part in a “program” by billionaire Donald Trump, the host of NBC’s The Apprentice, where Trump will hire 10 poor children as “apprentices.” Gingrich will elaborate, “I’ve asked [Trump] to take one of the poorer schools in New York and basically offer at least 10 apprenticeships to kids from that school to get them into the world of work, and to get them into an opportunity to earn money, and get them into the habit of showing up and realizing that effort gets rewarded, and that American is all about the work ethic.” (Edwards 12/5/2011)
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