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An anonymous chain email circulating through the Internet falsely claims that presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) “was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, calls the accusation intended to promote a “Manchurian Candidate-style conspiracy theory” about Obama’s birth, his religion, and his citizenship. The email accurately notes that Obama’s father was African and born a Muslim (see January 11, 2008). Obama’s stepfather was Indonesian and raised as a Muslim. However, PolitiFact notes, both men were not religiously observant (Obama has described his father as a practicing atheist). Obama’s American mother was agnostic at best. Obama has said that he grew up with virtually no religious traditions. He has been a practicing Christian for decades (see January 6-11, 2008). “Madrassa” is an Arabic word for “school,” but Americans generally understand the word to mean a school where anti-Western Islamic ideology is taught. The email falsely claims that Obama attended a “madrassa” that engaged in a “RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world.” PolitiFact notes: “Westerners typically understand Wahabism to be an austere form of Islam based on a literal reading of the Koran. So is that the type of school Obama attended?” Obama attended a secular public school in Indonesia; a press investigation found the school to be “so progressive that teachers wore miniskirts and all students were encouraged to celebrate Christmas.” The school has never taught Wahabism or any other form of “fringe” Islam. News reports accurately indicate that Obama’s school registration form lists Obama’s religion as “Muslim,” but the form has several other errors, and, PolitiFact notes, “it seems reasonable to assume that he was registered as Muslim simply because his stepfather was Muslim.” Obama also attended a Catholic school in Indonesia for several years. PolitiFact concludes that the email is “a wholesale invention designed to frighten voters.” (St. Petersburg Times 10/1/2007)
A chain email circulating around the Internet falsely claims Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), campaigning for president, “refused” to say the Pledge of Allegiance during an event and failed to put his hand over his heart. A photograph with the email shows Obama standing in front of an American flag with his hands clasped just below his waist. Fellow presidential contenders Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Bill Richardson (D-NM) stand beside him with their hands over their hearts. The email, noting Obama’s middle name is Hussein, claims Obama “REFUSED TO NOT ONLY PUT HIS HAND ON HIS HEART DURING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, BUT REFUSED TO SAY THE PLEDGE… how in the hell can a man like this expect to be our next Commander-in-Chief????” The photograph was not taken during the saying of the pledge, but during the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It was taken on September 16, 2007 in Indianola, Iowa, at the Harkin Steak Fry, an annual political event hosted by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). The photo was printed in Time magazine; the caption said Obama and the others “stand during the national anthem.” Matt Paul, who helped organize the event, confirms that the photo was taken as someone sang the national anthem. Additionally, an ABC News video of the event confirms the photo was taken during the anthem. The email claims that “the article said” Obama refused to say the pledge and would not put his hand on his heart, but the article said nothing of the sort. PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, attempts to find another article making the same claim, but only finds blog postings repeating the email’s original assertion. Obama has said the email is false, and that he was singing during the anthem, a claim verified by the ABC video. “My grandfather taught me how to say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was two,” Obama recently said on another campaign stop in Iowa. “During the Pledge of Allegiance you put your hand over your heart. During the national anthem you sing.” He called the email “irritating” and likened it to others that have falsely said he is a Muslim (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, and January 11, 2008). The Obama campaign has received strong support from a number of retired military leaders. “Senator Obama’s attackers are peddling lies and smears because they disagree with his strong opposition to the war in Iraq and the rush to war in Iran,” writes former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, in a letter cosigned by retired General Merrill “Tony” McPeak and General J. Scott Gration. “We have served this nation for decades and we know a true patriot when we see one. Barack Obama is a patriot.” Some conservative bloggers have noted their belief that federal law for “patriotic and national observances” says that during the Star-Spangled Banner, “all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart; men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.” The citation is not a formal law, and experts say it is somewhat obsolete, though it is still cited in some military manuals. Modern custom does not require a hand over the heart, says Anne Garside, director of communication for the Maryland Historical Society, home of the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner. “I think the bottom line is that you show respect with your demeanor,” she says. “Whether you put your hand over your heart, hold your hat at shoulder level or waist level, is really in this day and age irrelevant.” (Time 9/16/2007; ABC News 11/7/2007; St. Petersburg Times 11/8/2007)
An anonymous chain email circulates throughout the Internet claiming that newly elected President Barack Obama took the oath of office for his former position as a US senator on a Koran, the holy book of Islam, and not a Christian Bible. Obama is a Christian (see January 6-11, 2008), though many of his opponents have insisted that he is a “covert Muslim” or Islamist radical (see April 18, 2008). The email misspells the name as “Kuran,” though it is either spelled Koran or Qu’ran. Two press reports from January 2005 confirm that when Obama was sworn into office as the junior senator from Illinois, he took the oath on his family Bible. The Obama presidential campaign has confirmed that Obama used his family Bible. Vice President Dick Cheney, in his role as president of the Senate, administered the oath. PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, concludes: “We suspect this false claim was inspired by the 2007 swearing-in of Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), an American convert to Islam and the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison used a Koran that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, borrowing the rare book from the Library of Congress. It goes without saying that Ellison is not Obama. And with its intent to inflame, we find the email’s allegation not only false, but pants-on-fire wrong.” (St. Petersburg Times 12/19/2007)
PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, investigates claims that Democratic senator Barack Obama (D-IL), a presidential candidate, belongs to “a racist, anti-American church.” The investigation concludes that Obama’s church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, “teaches black empowerment, not racism, and that it claims Africa as its ethnic heritage.” Anonymous emails “ricocheting around the Internet” claim that Obama should not be president because his church is “anti-American” and “scary,” and, somewhat contradictorily, that Obama is not a Christian, but a “covert Muslim” (see December 19, 2007 and January 11, 2008). The emails began within hours of Obama’s Democratic primary win in the Iowa caucuses. One email declares: “If you look at the first page of their Web site, you will learn that this congregation has a nonnegotiable commitment to Africa. No where [sic] is AMERICA even mention [sic]. Notice too, what color you need to be if you should want to join Obama’s church… B-L-A-C-K!!!” PolitiFact writes: “It’s the latest salvo in the email wars—anonymous missives launched into cyberspace seeking to frighten voters away from presidential candidates in the guise of friendly warnings. Typically they use kernels of truth, then launch into falsehood.” Chicago historian Martin Marty, a white religious expert who has attended Trinity United services in the past, says: “There’s no question this is a distortion.… Whites are highly accepted. They don’t make a fuss over you, but you’re very much welcomed.” PolitiFact finds that Trinity United is one of the larger black “megachurches” in the US, preaches a message of black self-reliance, and has as its motto, “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.” The church does have a “nonnegotiable commitment to Africa.” However, it has no racial standards for its members, and does have white and other non-black members. Obama is a member who has attended regularly for years, though with the travails of recent presidential campaigning, his attendance has fallen off in recent weeks. The main focus of the email vitriol, aside from Obama, is Trinity’s senior pastor Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who preaches passionately and focuses on what he calls “black liberation theology.” Obama has written in his memoir, The Audacity of Hope, that it was Wright’s preaching that inspired him to convert from a secular agnosticism to Christianity during the 1980s. He titled his memoir after one of Wright’s sermons. PolitiFact finds, “Trinity’s commitment to Africa appears to be more a statement of philosophical orientation than of political support for any particular African country,” and notes that the church’s Web site states, “Just as those of Jewish heritage advocate on behalf of the state of Israel, and those of Irish heritage advocate on behalf of Ireland, and those of Polish descent for Poland, so must we of African descent care about the land of our heritage—the continent of Africa.” Divinity professor Dwight Hopkins, an African-American member of Trinity, describes the church as “highly evangelical and Bible-based.” The preaching, he says, tends to be “common-sense folk wisdom laced with theological sophistication.… There’s singing and shouting and people get happy. It’s an old-fashioned, mainstream down-home church that somehow is captured in this 8,000-person congregation.” John C. Green, a political science professor, says scholars do not view black liberation theology as racist, but some outsiders may hold that opinion. “A black empowerment theology could be seen as having a racist element because it isn’t neutral in regards to race,” he says. “The person who wrote this email obviously has very strong feelings about this.” In February 2007, Obama said of his church and his faith: “Commitment to God, black community, commitment to the black family, the black work ethic, self-discipline, and self-respect. Those are values that the conservative movement in particular has suggested are necessary for black advancement. So I would be puzzled that they would object or quibble with the bulk of a document that basically espouses profoundly conservative values of self-reliance and self-help.” In recent weeks, Obama has distanced himself somewhat from Wright and Trinity, because, his campaign says, he wishes to avoid bringing an overwhelming influx of media attention onto the church. The campaign said in a statement, “[B]ecause of the type of attention it was receiving on blogs and conservative talk shows, he decided to avoid having statements and beliefs being used out of context and forcing the entire church to defend itself.” Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity has called Trinity’s teachings “divisive,” and engaged in what PolitiFact calls “a spirited debate” with Wright on one of his broadcasts. Conservative ethicist Michael Cromartie agrees with Hannity, saying: “It’s too strong to call it racist but at the same time, it is a form of identity politics or identity theology, which insists you white people can come to this church, but you won’t get it.” Trinity has stated: “There is no anti-American sentiment in the theology or the practice of Trinity United Church of Christ. To be sure, there is prophetic preaching against oppression, racism, and other evils that would deny the American ideal.” Green is reminded of the 1960 presidential election, when many opponents of candidate John F. Kennedy attacked Kennedy for being Catholic. “But we didn’t have the Internet back then,” he says. “This kind of communication has always gone on, but it moves much faster now.” (St. Petersburg Times 1/6/2008; St. Petersburg Times 1/6/2008; St. Petersburg Times 1/11/2008)
PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, debunks Internet claims that Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), a presidential candidate, is a covert Muslim whose middle name is Mohammed. The claims appear to be sourced from anonymous emails circulating throughout right-wing blogs and organizations. PolitiFact writes: “First off, Barack Obama’s middle name is not Mohammed; it’s Hussein. He was named after his father, a Kenyan who came to the United States from Africa as a student.” PolitiFact also verifies that Obama is not a Muslim, “covert” or otherwise. Obama is a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago (see January 6-11, 2008). PolitiFact notes that the emails contradict themselves, on the one hand making the claim that Obama is a Muslim and on the other attacking his membership in Trinity United. Obama campaign spokesman Robert Gibbs has said, “To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago.” (St. Petersburg Times 1/11/2008; St. Petersburg Times 1/11/2008) PolitiFact does further investigation and again debunks the claims months later (see April 18, 2008). PolitiFact has already debunked earlier claims that in 2005, Obama took his Senate oath of office on a Koran, when in reality he used his family Bible (see December 19, 2007).
A recent spate of chain email attacks on presidential contender Barack Obama (D-IL) include claims that Obama may be the Antichrist of Biblical prediction. PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, notes that the email entirely distorts the words of the Book of Revelation to make its claim. The email reads: “According to The Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal.… the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything is it OBAMA??… I STRONGLY URGE each one of you to repost this as many times as you can! Each opportunity that you have to send it to a friend or media outlet… do it! If you think I am crazy… Im sorry but I refuse to take a chance on the ‘unknown’ candidate.” PolitiFact notes that there are at least 635,000 hits on Google for the search term “Obama + Antichrist,” indicating that the subject has a certain interest to many. There are also literally thousands of blog posts about “Barack Obama the Antichrist” and such. PolitiFact states flatly, “Nothing about this detailed allegation is true.” According to PolitiFact’s research, which includes interviews with two religious scholars, the email makes a number of egregious errors.
The email misstates the name of the “Book of Revelation” as “Revelations.”
The email falsely says that the Book of Revelation uses the term “anti-christ” or any such term. Religious studies professor Dr. James D. Tabor tells PolitiFact: “The word Antichrist is not used in the Book of Revelation so this is important to point out. Everybody thinks the word is used.” Dr. L. Michael White, a professor of classics and religious studies, adds, “First and foremost, the word Antichrist and a figure called the Antichrist never occurs in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament.” There are characters in Revelation that some interpret as being the Antichrist, particularly one beastly figure in Chapter 13 “having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy” that some consider to be an allusion to the Antichrist. “It’s only in Chapter 13 and you could almost miss it,” Tabor says. White notes that most Biblical scholars do not consider that figure to represent the Antichrist. “It wasn’t there in the Bible,” he says. “It emerges in the Middle Ages. It’s something historians deal with.” The term does appear a few times in other books of the Bible, specifically First John and Second John.
The Bible does not identify the Antichrist as a man of any particular age. Nowhere does it describe “a man, in his 40s,” as the e-mail alleges. “As you notice, there’s nothing about being age 40,” Tabor says. “This is completely wrong. The Book of Revelation doesn’t say that. It says it’s a male, so I guess they got that right. It says ‘he,’ ‘he,’ ‘he.’”
The Bible does not identify the Antichrist as being Muslim; Islam was not founded as a religion until 400 years after the completion of the various books of the Bible. “A Muslim would be a monotheist and the last thing a Muslim would do is have anyone worship anyone other than God,” says Tabor. And Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, and January 11, 2008).
According to White, the email lifts much of its information from the Left Behind series, a group of post-apocalyptic novels written by Christian-right preacher Tim LaHaye and his co-author, Jerry Jenkins. The email is, White says, “a jigsaw puzzle of bits and pieces all filtered through the kind of end-of-world scenarios we get in the theology that is the underpinning of the Left Behind novels.” He says this kind of “patchwork interpretation of the Bible” is used by groups who wish to justify certain beliefs. “Of course, they never bothered to read the Scriptures carefully,” he says, “so it’s kind of a system of interpretation. That if you start with that presupposition… it’s all there you can just find it.… That description [in the chain email] never occurs anywhere in one place nor are the component parts really about the same situation. It’s a cherry-picking through Scripture to get it all to fit together.” PolitiFact calls the email’s claim “egregiously inaccurate.” (St. Petersburg Times 3/19/2008)
PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, debunks a recent spate of claims that Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), a presidential candidate, has ties to Islamist radicals in Kenya. The claims appear to be sourced from a letter sent by American missionaries in Kenya, saying that Obama has ties to a Kenyan opposition party and warning its readers “not to be taken in by those that are promoting him.” The email also claims: “By the way. His true name is Barak Hussein Muhammed Obama. Won’t that sound sweet to our enemies as they swear him in on the Koran! God bless you.” PolitiFact writes: “The e-mail reads like a bad game of ‘telephone,’ its claims drawn from assorted people and sources that have been stitched together. And yet, because it is signed by real people, who have a life in Africa, it somehow carries more credence than your average blog posting—and it’s spreading rapidly.” PolitiFact has debunked this claim before (see January 11, 2008), but notes that the claim continues to spread. PolitiFact posts a copy of Obama’s 1992 marriage certificate, which states “Barack H. Obama” married “Michelle L. Robinson” on October 3, 1992, in a ceremony officiated by Trinity United Church of Christ pastor Jeremiah A. Wright (see January 6-11, 2008). Obama’s driver’s license record in Illinois identifies him as “Barack H. Obama.” His property listings name him as either “Barack Hussein Obama” or “Barack H. Obama.” His registration and disciplinary record with the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois notes that Obama was admitted to the Illinois bar on December 17, 1991, and has no public record of discipline. PolitiFact was unable to secure a copy of Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate (see June 13, 2008). PolitiFact has located the originator of the email, Celeste Davis. Her husband Loren Davis confirms that he cannot substantiate the claims in the email. “That was what we heard there [in Kenya],” Davis tells a PolitiFact interviewer. Davis says he and his wife have lived and worked in Kenya for the past 12 years, and says his wife’s message was from a personal letter “never intended to be forwarded or sent out to the Web.” (St. Petersburg Times 4/18/2008)
PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, publishes a scathing denunciation of so-called “birther” claims that presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is not a legitimate American citizen. The story has gained traction mostly through Internet blogs and emails circulating among far-right and “tea party” organizations and figures, making wildly varying claims—Obama is a Kenyan, he is a Muslim, his middle name is Mohammed, his birth name is “Barry Soetoro,” and so forth. PolitiFact’s Amy Hollyfield writes: “At full throttle, the accusations are explosive and unrelenting, the writers emboldened by the anonymity and reach of the Internet. And you can’t help but ask: How do you prove something to people who come to the facts believing, out of fear or hatred or maybe just partisanship, that they’re being tricked?” Hollyfield notes that PolitiFact has sought a valid copy of Obama’s birth certificate since the claims began circulating months ago. PolitiFact has already secured a copy of Obama’s 1992 marriage certificate from the Cook County, Illinois, Bureau of Vital Statistics, his driver’s license record from the Illinois secretary of state’s office, his registration and disciplinary record with the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois, and all of his property records. The records are consistent, all naming him as either “Barack H. Obama” or “Barack Hussein Obama,” his legitimate, given name. PolitiFact ran into trouble with the birth certificate. Obama was born in a hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, and according to Hawaiian law, that state’s birth certificates are not public record. Only family members can request copies. The Obama presidential campaign originally declined to provide PolitiFact with a copy, until the campaign released a true copy of the certificate (see June 13, 2008). When PolitiFact received the document, researchers emailed it to the Hawaii Department of Health, which maintains such records, to ask if it was real. Spokesman Janice Okubo responded, “It’s a valid Hawaii state birth certificate.” Instead of settling the controversy, the certificate inflamed the so-called “birthers,” who asked a number of questions concerning the certificate, including queries about and challenges to:
the certificate’s seal and registrar’s signature;
the color of the document as compared to other Hawaiian birth certificates;
the date stamp of June 2007, which some say is “bleeding through the back of the document,” supposedly calling into question the validity of the stamp and, thusly, the entire certificate;
the lack of creases from being folded and mailed;
the authenticity of the document, which some claim is “clearly Photoshopped and a wholesale fraud.”
Further investigation by PolitiFact researchers supports the validity of the certificate and disproves the allegations as cited. Hollyfield writes: “And soon enough, after going to every length possible to confirm the birth certificate’s authenticity, you start asking, what is reasonable here? Because if this document is forged, then they all are. If this document is forged, a US senator and his presidential campaign have perpetrated a vast, long-term fraud. They have done it with conspiring officials at the Hawaii Department of Health, the Cook County (Ill.) Bureau of Vital Statistics, the Illinois secretary of state’s office, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois, and many other government agencies.” Hollyfield notes that the Hawaii Department of Health receives about a dozen email inquiries a day about Obama’s birth certificate, according to Okubo. She tells Hollyfield: “I guess the big issue that’s being raised is the lack of an embossed seal and a signature.” On a Hawaiian birth certificate, she says, the seal and signatures are on the back of the document. “Because they scanned the front… you wouldn’t see those things.” Hollyfield concludes that it is conceivable “that Obama conspired his way to the precipice of the world’s biggest job, involving a vast network of people and government agencies over decades of lies. Anything’s possible.” But she goes on to ask doubters “to look at the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and your sense of what’s reasonable has to take over. There is not one shred of evidence to disprove PolitiFact’s conclusion that the candidate’s name is Barack Hussein Obama, or to support allegations that the birth certificate he released isn’t authentic. And that’s true no matter how many people cling to some hint of doubt and use the Internet to fuel their innate sense of distrust.” (Hollyfield 6/27/2008)
A blogger who supports Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) for president over Democratic primary challenger Barack Obama (D-IL) finds a birth announcement from a copy of the August 13, 1961 Honolulu Advertiser announcing Obama’s birth. The blogger publishes a scanned graphic of the announcement on his blog, and concludes that Obama was “likely” born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu as the campaign, and the senator, have always claimed (see June 13, 2008). Reprinting the annoucement, FactCheck (.org) notes: “Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his US citizenship in order to run for president someday. We suggest that those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat. The evidence is clear: Barack Obama was born in the USA.” (FactCheck (.org) 8/21/2008) Reporter Will Hoover for the Honolulu Advertiser notes that both the Advertiser and the Honolulu Star Bulletin published birth announcements for Obama. One of the announcements, the blogger notes, contains the actual address of Obama’s parents at the time they lived in Honolulu, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway. Newspaper officials tell Hoover that the announcements came, not from the parents, but from Hawaii’s Department of Health. “That’s not the kind of stuff a family member calls in and says, ‘Hey, can you put this in?’” Hoover explains. (What Really Happened (.com) 2008; Fairley 7/1/2009)
A blogger calling himself “Techdude” writes a “final report” for the conservative blog Atlas Shrugs that, he claims, proves Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s digitally scanned copy of his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008) is a fraud, regardless of the recent validation of the copy by PolitiFact (see June 27, 2008) and the discovery of a printed birth announcement from a Honolulu newspaper (see July 2008). The proprietor of Atlas Shrugs, Pamela Geller, refuses to name “Techdude,” but claims “he is an active member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, American College of Forensic Examiners, the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners, International Information Systems Forensics Association,” and other unnamed organizations. He is, Geller claims, a forensic computer examiner, a certificated legal investigator, and a licensed private investigator. “Techdude“‘s report begins with complaints that unnamed Obama supporters have recently vandalized his car and hung a dead rabbit on his front door “in a lame attempt to intimidate me from proceeding with releasing any details of my analysis.” The attempt at “intimidation” did not work, “Techdude” proclaims, and he then releases his detailed analysis of the certificate. Although he refuses to release any information about the supposed actual Hawaiian birth certificates he used for his comparisons, “because of the amazing number of violent psychopaths who seem to be drawn to this issue,” he says comparison between the digital scan of Obama’s certificate and the “actual” certificates he claims to have in his possession show critical differences between them. “Techdude” says, among other things:
The borders of the real certificates differ from those on the Obama certificate;
The measurements of the real certificates differ from those of the Obama certificate;
The digital scan shows evidence that the information was “overlain” onto a piece of security paper;
The digital scan shows artifacts that could only come from Photoshop manipulation;
The typography shows differences in “kerning,” or the spacing between characters, between the scan and the authentic documents.
“Techdude” concludes that the digital scan was produced by someone obtaining a real Hawaii birth certificate, soaking it in solvent, and then reprinting it with the desired information. (Atlas Shrugs 7/20/2008) Computer forensics expert Dr. Neal Krawetz later examines “Techdude“‘s analysis and determines it to be completely specious. The analysis, Krawetz will determine, has been deliberately manipulated to produce false results. “TechDude did not make amateur mistakes,” Krawetz will conclude. “Instead, he intentionally manipulated the data so that it would support his theory.” (Neal Krawetz 8/4/2008; Hacker Factor 2011)
Bishop Ron McRae of the Anabaptist Church of North America calls Sarah Onyango Obama, presidential candidate Barack Obama’s elderly step-grandmother. McRae, in Pennsylvania, speaks to Mrs. Obama in Kenya over a garbled and troubled telephone connection; Mrs. Obama uses at least one translator, Vitalis Akech Ogombe (a cousin of Obama’s and the grandson of Sarah Obama), because she speaks Luo and Swahili. (Apparently some, if not all, of the conversation is translated between English, Swahili, Luo, then back to Swahili, and then into English.) Additionally, the conversation takes place during a riotous celebration, and on the Kenyan side is being heard through a speakerphone. McRae set the conversation up through a contact, Kweli Shuhubia, a Kenyan Christian evangelist McRae knows as “Brother Tom,” and who, in an exchange of emails, apparently demanded money and goods for setting up the “operation,” as he and McRae call it. The telephone conversation lasts 14 minutes, and McRae apparently does not inform the Kenyans that they are being recorded. The resulting audiotape creates a firestorm of controversy over President Obama’s supposed birth in Kenya, because it appears that Mrs. Obama says she saw him born in Kenya. McRae quickly makes an edited portion of the audiotape available on the Internet. It says in part:
McRae: - “Could I ask her about his actual birthplace? I would like to see his birthplace when I come to visit Kenya in December. Was she present when he was born in Kenya?”
Ogombe: - “She says yes she was. She was present when Obama was born.”
The edited version does not contain the next portion:
McRae: - “Okay, when I come in December, I would like to go by the place, the hospital where he was born. Could you tell me where he was born? Was he born in Mombasa?”
Ogombe: - “No. Obama was not born in Mombasa. He was born in America.”
McRae: - “Whereabouts was he born? I thought he was born in Kenya.”
Ogombe: - “He was born in America, not in Mombasa.”
McRae: - “Do you know where he was born? I thought he was born in Kenya. I was gonna go by and see where he was born.”
Ogombe: - “Hawaii. She says he was born in Hawaii. In the state of Hawaii, where his father, his father was also learning there. The state of Hawaii.”
McRae: - “I thought she said she was present. Was she able to see him being born in Hawaii?”
Translator: - “No, no.… She was not… she was here in Kenya. Obama was born in America.… Because the grandmother was back in Kenya and Obama was born in America, where he is from, where his father was learning, learning in America, the United States.”
Instead of posting the entire audiotape, McRae will continue to insist that Sarah Obama confirmed Obama’s Kenyan birth. McRae submits an affidavit that states in part: “Though some few younger relatives, including Mr. Ogombe (one of the translators), have obviously been versed to counter such facts with the common purported information from the American news media that Obama was born in Hawaii, Ms. Sarah Hussein Obama was very adamant that her grandson, Senator Barack Hussein Obama, was born in Kenya, and that she was present and witnessed his birth in Kenya, not the United States. When Mr. Ogombe attempted to counter Sarah Obama’s clear responses to the question, verifying the birth of Senator Obama in Kenya, I asked Mr. Ogombe how she could be present at Barack Obama’s birth if the senator was born in Hawaii, but Ogombe would not answer the question, instead he repeatedly tried to insert that, ‘No, no, no. He was born in the United States!’” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, notes that a March 2007 story in the Chicago Tribune featured a quote from reporter Tim Jones, who spoke with Sarah Obama and quoted her as saying that she received a letter announcing Obama’s birth and she “was so happy to have a grandchild in the US.” PolitiFact concludes that the audiotape as presented was “tightly… edited” to give a false impression that Mrs. Obama had seen Barack Obama being born in a Kenyan hospital. (Greg Doudna 12/9/2008 ; Obama Conspiracy (.org) 3/6/2009; St. Petersburg Times 4/7/2011) McRae will release his edited audiotape in the last week of October 2008, in an apparent attempt to influence the upcoming presidential election. (Greg Doudna 12/9/2008 )
Explanation of Hoax - Investigative blogger Greg Doudna, who later obtains a copy of the unedited audiotape and makes it, and a transcript, available on the Internet, explains McRae’s reasoning behind the hoax. “In this conversation McRae sought to obtain evidence on tape in support of a conspiracy theory circulating in certain right-wing circles in America, namely, that Barack Obama Jr. was not born in Hawaii in 1961 as represented, but actually was secretly born in Kenya. According to this theory, Obama’s mother, then-18-year-old Ann Dunham, waited until about seven or eight months into her pregnancy to take a grueling transcontinental flight halfway across the world to Kenya, there to discover that because of her pregnancy she was not allowed by an airline to get on the plane back to the US, and so was forced to have her baby—the future president of the United States—in a hospital in Kenya. Motivated by a desire to ensure that her child would be regarded as a US citizen with all rights thereof, she or fellow-conspirator family members plotted to have [Obama’s] birth recorded in Hawaii as if it happened in Hawaii, including placing a notice in a Hololulu newspaper of the birth, which was published a few days later (see July 2008). The plot succeeded (so the story goes), and the secret of the true circumstances of Barack Obama Jr.‘s birth in Kenya was closely held by the family, so much so that neither Ann Dunham nor any other family member ever spoke of a trip of Ann Dunham to Kenya in all the years since.” The “conspiracy” would have worked, Doudna writes, had Obama not decided to run for president. “No witness, document, evidence, or testimony has been produced which locates Ann Dunham anywhere outside the United States at any time in her life prior to 1967, when she and young Barack Jr. went to live for several years in Indonesia. Neither the outgoing Bush administration, the Republican Party, the McCain campaign, nor any of Obama’s earlier rivals for the Democratic nomination disclosed any awareness of evidence that Obama was born in Kenya, or in any other way ineligible to be president. Yet the notion is fervently believed, like an urban legend that will not die.” (Greg Doudna 12/9/2008 )
Audiotape Used in Lawsuit - The edited audiotape will be presented as “evidence” of Obama’s supposed Kenyan citizenship in a lawsuit (see August 21-24, 2008).
The conservative lobbying group Citizens United (CU) distributes hundreds of thousands of DVDs in newspapers throughout Ohio, Florida, and Nevada, all considered “swing states” in the upcoming presidential election. The DVDs contain a “documentary” entitled Hype: The Obama Effect and are characterized by CU as “truthful attack[s]” on Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). Previous advertisements for the film said the film portrays Obama as an “overhyped media darling,” and quoted conservative pundit Tucker Carlson as saying: “The press loves Obama. I mean not just love, but sort of like an early teenage crush.” The DVD distribution takes place just days before the November 4 election. CU says it is spending over a million dollars to distribute around 1.25 million DVDs, which are included with delivery and store-bought copies of five newspapers: the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Palm Beach (Florida) Post, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The film attacks Obama’s record on abortion rights, foreign policy, and what the Associated Press calls his “past relationships” with, among others, his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright (see January 6-11, 2008). The DVD also attempts to tie Obama to political corruption in Illinois, and lambasts the news media for what CU calls its preferential treatment of Obama. CU president David Bossie says: “We think it’s a truthful attack. People can take it any way they want.” Bossie was fired from his position on a Republican House member’s staff in 1998 for releasing fraudulently edited transcripts of a former Clinton administration official to falsely imply that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton had committed crimes (see May 1998). Among those interviewed about Obama for the film are conservative columnist Robert Novak, conservative pundit Dick Morris, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), and author and pundit Jerome Corsi, whom the AP terms a “discredited critic” of Obama. Obama campaign spokesman Isaac Baker calls the DVD “slash and burn politics,” and says the DVD is another tactic of the presidential campaign of John McCain (R-AZ) to “smear” Obama with “dishonest, debunked attacks from the fringes of the far right.” (Falcone 7/22/2008; Elliott 10/28/2008; Schulman 10/29/2008)
Newspaper Official Defends Decision to Include DVD - Palm Beach Post general manager Charles Gerardi says of his paper’s decision to include the DVD in its Friday distribution: “Citizens United has every right to place this message as a paid advertisement, and our readers have every right to see it, even if they don’t agree with it. That we accepted it as a paid advertisement in no way implies that this newspaper agrees or disagrees with its message.” (Palm Beach Post 10/31/2008)
Falsehoods, Misrepresentations, and Lies - Within days, the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters finds that the DVD is riddled with errors, misrepresentations, and lies.
Claim that Obama 'Threw' Illinois State Senate Election - On the DVD, author David Freddoso claims that in 1998, Obama managed to “thr[o]w all of his opponents off the ballot” to win an election to the Illinois State Senate, a claim that has been disproved.
Claim that Obama Refuses to Work with Republicans - Freddoso also asserts that there are no instances of Obama’s stints in the Illinois State Senate nor the US Senate where he was willing to work with Republicans on legislation, an assertion that Freddoso himself inadvertently disproves by citing several instances of legislation Obama joined with Republicans to pass.
Claim that Obama Wants to Raise Taxes on Middle Class and Small Business - The DVD’s narrator misrepresents Obama’s campaign statements to falsely claim that Obama has promised to “irrevocabl[y]” raise taxes on citizens making over $100,000 to fund Social Security; the reality is that Obama’s proposed tax increase would affect citizens making $250,000 or more. The DVD narrator makes similarly false claims about Obama’s stance on raising the capital gains tax, and on raising taxes on small business owners. Conservative radio host Armstrong Williams tells viewers that Obama will raise taxes on small businesses that employ only a few workers, when in fact Obama has repeatedly proposed cutting taxes on most small businesses. Huckabee makes similar claims later in the DVD.
Claim that Obama Supports Immigration 'Amnesty' - The narrator misrepresents Obama’s stance on immigration reform as “amnesty for the 12 to 20 million people who violated US immigration law,” a position that Obama’s “Plan for Immigration” rejects.
Claim that Obama Wants 'Centralized Government' Health Care - Blackwell, now a contributing editor for the conservative publication TownHall, falsely claims that Obama wants to implement what he calls “a centralized government program that hasn’t worked in Canada, hasn’t worked in England, that has actually taken the freedom from the consumer and limited the choices.” Organizations such as PolitiFact and the New York Times have called claims that Obama supports government-run “single payer” health care false.
Claim that Obama Refused to Protect Lives of Infants - Conservative columnist and anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek claims that Obama opposed legislation that would have protected the lives of babies “born alive” during botched abortion efforts, when in fact no such legislation was ever proposed—the law already protects babies in such circumstances—and the Illinois Department of Public Health has said no such case exists in its records. (Stanek has claimed that she has witnessed such incidents during her time as an Illinois hospital worker.) Stanek has said that she believes domestic violence against women who have had abortions is acceptable, claimed that Chinese people eat aborted fetuses as “much sought after delicacies,” and claimed that Obama “supports infanticide.”
Claim that Obama Supported Attack on Petraeus - The DVD narrator claims that as a US senator, Obama refused to vote for a bill that condemned an attack by liberal grassroots activist organization MoveOn.org on General David Petraeus. In reality, Obama did vote to support an amendment that condemned the MoveOn advertisement.
Claim that Obama Supported Award for Farrakhan - The DVD narrator claims that Obama has aligned himself with the controversial head of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, and cites the 2007 decision by Obama’s then-church, Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, to award a lifetime achievement award to Farrakhan. In reality, Obama denounced Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, and stated that he did not agree with the Trinity decision to give Farrakhan the award.
Claim of Suspiciously Preferential Loan Rate - The DVD narrator claims that Obama received a suspiciously “preferential rate on his super-jumbo loan for the purchase” of a “mansion” in Hyde Park, Illinois, from Northern Trust, an Illinois bank. A Washington Post reporter did make such a claim in a report, but subsequent investigation by Politico and the Columbia Journalism Review showed that the rate Obama received on the loan was consistent with other loans Northern Trust made at the time and not significantly below the average loan rate.
'Citizen of the World' - Corsi claims that Obama does not consider himself an American, but a “citizen of the world.” Media Matters has found numerous instances where Obama proclaims himself a proud American as well as “a fellow citizen of the world.” In 1982, Media Matters notes, then-President Reagan addressed the United Nations General Assembly by saying, “I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world.” Media Matters notes that Corsi’s anti-Obama book Obama Nation was widely and thoroughly debunked (see August 1, 2008 and After), and since its publication, Corsi has made a number of inflammatory and false accusations about Obama and his family (see August 15, 2008, August 16, 2008, September 7, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, and September 21, 2010). (Media Matters 10/30/2008)
Salon columnist Alex Koppelman explores the widening sets of claims that purport to prove President Barack Obama is not a US citizen—the heart of the so-called “birther” conspiracy theory. The Obama campaign long ago produced a valid birth certificate that allowed Obama to run legitimately as a presidential candidate (see June 13, 2008), Obama’s mother Ann Dunham has also affirmed her son’s citizenship, and Hawaiian officials have confirmed that Obama was indeed born in a hospital in Honolulu (see October 30, 2008). However, some on the right continue to promulgate the tale of Obama’s supposed Kenyan citizenship, or Indonesian citizenship, or British citizenship. The Chigago Tribune recently ran a paid advertisement questioning Obama’s citizenship (see December 3, 2008). Conservative news and opinion blogs such as WorldNetDaily run stories on a near-daily basis challenging Obama’s citizenship, or producing hoax “birth certificates” that “prove” Obama was born in Mombasa, Kenya, or other locales (see July 20, 2008). Plaintiffs have filed lawsuits challenging Obama’s citizenship in a number of state courts, all of which have been rejected (see March 14 - July 24, 2008, August 21-24, 2008, October 9-28, 2008, October 17-22, 2008, October 21, 2008, October 31 - November 3, 2008, October 24, 2008, October 31, 2008 and After, November 12, 2008 and After, November 13, 2008, and Around November 26, 2008), and a similar case goes up for review in the Supreme Court (that case also challenges Republican presidential contender John McCain’s citizenship, as McCain was born in the former Panama Canal Zone to parents serving in the US military, another legitimate way of securing citizenship—see March 14 - July 24, 2008 and August 21-24, 2008). Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine and a columnist for Scientific American, notes that some people will never let go of the idea that Obama is not a citizen, no matter what level of proof is provided. “There’s no amount of evidence or data that will change somebody’s mind,” he says. “The more data you present a person, the more they doubt it.… Once you’re committed, especially behaviorally committed or financially committed, the more impossible it becomes to change your mind.” Any inconvenient facts are irrelevant, he says. Chip Berlet, a senior analyst with Political Research Associates, agrees. People who believe in a conspiracy theory “develop a selective perception, their mind refuses to accept contrary evidence,” Berlet says. “As soon as you criticize a conspiracy theory, you become part of the conspiracy.” Social psychologist Evan Harrington adds: “One of the tendencies of the conspiracy notion, the whole appeal, is that a lot of the information the believer has is secret or special. The real evidence is out there, [and] you can give them all this evidence, but they’ll have convenient ways to discredit [it].” Koppelman notes that during the presidential election, so-called “birthers” said that they would drop their claims if only Obama would release the “long form” of his birth certificate, even though to do so would be to violate Hawaii’s privacy laws, which keep all such documents under lock and key. During the campaign, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, released a statement saying she had verified that the state has the original birth certificate on record (see October 30, 2008), and that Obama’s Hawaiian birth is a matter of state record. Experts with the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, part of the FactCheck (.org) organization, have examined the certificate and verified its authenticity (see August 21, 2008), as has PolitiFact (see June 27, 2008). Koppelmann notes that the conspiracy theory has grown to the point where talk-show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage have suggested that Obama used the occasion of his grandmother’s death to go to Hawaii to alter the record (see November 10, 2008). Koppelman notes that many who align themselves with the “birther” movement are well-known conspiratorists. Author Jerome Corsi, who attacked Obama’s citizenship in a pre-election book (see August 1, 2008 and After), has spoken of “secret government plans” to form a “North American Union” with Canada and Mexico. Philip Berg, who filed the lawsuit that had until now drawn the most public attention, asserts that the 9/11 attacks were staged by the US government (so-called “trutherism”). Another critic, Andy Martin, who seems to be the source of the rumor that Obama is a Muslim and is a strong “birther” proponent, was denied an Illinois law license on the grounds that he was mentally unfit to practice law (see October 17-22, 2008). Robert Schulz, who ran the Tribune ads, is a well-known tax protester and anti-government rhetorician. (Koppelman 12/5/2008)
Journalist Lester Kinsolving, representing the conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND), asks White House press secretary Robert Gibbs about President Obama’s birth certificate. Obama has been hounded for well over a year with questions concerning his heritage and his citizenship. Kinsolving begins by asking: “One question concerning what the president said in his speech on Thursday, and I quote: ‘I ran for president promising transparency, and I meant what I said. This is why, whenever possible, we will make information available to the American people so they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable.’ End of quote. Do you remember that statement?” Gibbs responds, “I can confirm he said that.” Kinsolving says: “Good. In consideration of this very good promise of transparency, why can’t the president respond to the petitioned requests of 400,000 American citizens by releasing a certified copy of his long form birth certificate listing hospital and physician?” Kinsolving is referring to an online petition hosted by WND that, the site claims, has over 400,000 signatures asking for Obama’s “true” birth certificate. Gibbs tells Kinsolving that the certificate “is on the Internet, Lester” (see June 13, 2008). Kinsolving responds, “No, no, no—the long form listing his hospital and physician” (see July 1, 2009). Kinsolving is referring to the “long form” birth certificate that is by Hawaiian law kept in state vaults; only “short form” certificates are given to individuals and/or family members. Gibbs replies: “Lester.… This question in many ways continues to astound me. The state of Hawaii provided a copy, with a seal, of the president’s birth (see June 27, 2008 and August 21, 2008). I know there are apparently at least 400,000 people that continue to doubt the existence of and the certification by the state of Hawaii of the president’s birth there, but it’s on the Internet because we put it on the Internet for each of those 400,000 to download. I certainly hope by the fourth year of our administration that we’ll have dealt with this burgeoning birth controversy.” WND will respond to Gibbs’s statement by taking out an ad in the conservative publication Human Events calling Gibbs “arrogant… factually incorrect,” and a liar, and accuses other journalists in the White House press corp, “members of the liberal elitist media,” of “openly laugh[ing]” at Kinsolving’s line of inquiry. PolitiFact researcher Robert Fairley will confirm that journalists could indeed be heard “chuckling” at Kinsolving’s questions. (St. Petersburg Times 6/17/2009; Fairley 7/1/2009)
The non-partisan PolitiFact, an organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, again delves into the ever-widening controversy surrounding President Obama’s supposed lack of US citizenship. A year ago, the organization attempted to debunk the wildly varying claims that Obama is not a US citizen (see June 27, 2008). Since then, the number and nature of the various claims against Obama’s heritage and citizenship have continued to swell. PolitiFact examines one aspect of the controversy, the question about “long form” vs. “short form” birth certificates. According to PolitiFact researcher Robert Fairley, so-called “birthers” claim that Obama has never produced a valid “long form” birth certificate, only an easily faked “short form” certificate that is generated via a computer database in Honolulu, the city of Obama’s birth. In August 2008, researchers from FactCheck stated that they had verified the authenticity of a physical and true copy of the birth certificate, though the verification did little to stem the tide of claims and conspiracy theories. The “long form”—kept in state vaults by Hawaiian law—is the actual “birth certificate,” birthers claim; the “short form” is merely a “certification of live birth,” and, they say, useless for proving anyone’s actual status as a citizen. Many “birthers” believe that the “hidden” long form would prove Obama’s foreign birth, and claim that Hawaii’s refusal to release it (a violation of state law) is proof of Obama’s hidden heritage. Some claim that Hawaii does not accept a “certification of live birth” as proof that an individual was physically born in Hawaii, and point to a statement on the Web site of the Hawaii Department of Home Lands, which reads in part: “In order to process your application, DHHL utilizes information that is found only on the original certificate of live birth, which is either black or green. This is a more complete record of your birth than the certification of live birth (a computer-generated printout). Submitting the original certificate of live birth will save you time and money since the computer-generated certification requires additional verification by DHHL.” DHHL spokesman Lloyd Yonenaka says the statement is somewhat misleading. In order to be eligible for Hawaii’s Home Lands program, an applicant must be able to prove that his ancestry is 50 percent native Hawaiian or indigeneous. Obama has never asserted that his ancestry is native Hawaiian. The DHHL Web site now states: “The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands accepts both certificates of live birth (original birth certificate) and certifications of live birth because they are official government records documenting an individual’s birth. The certificate of live birth generally has more information which is useful for genealogical purposes as compared to the certification of live birth which is a computer-generated printout that provides specific details of a person’s birth. Although original birth certificates (certificates of live birth) are preferred for their greater detail, the State Department of Health (DOH) no longer issues certificates of live birth. When a request is made for a copy of a birth certificate, the DOH issues a certification of live birth.” Janice Okubo of the Hawaii Department of Health says there is no real difference between the “long form” and “short form” for any useful purposes. The terms are “just words,” she says. Obama’s birth certificate as posted on the Internet (see June 13, 2008) “is considered a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. There’s only one form of birth certificate.” Hawaii has followed the same practice of keeping the “long form” on file and issuing copies of the “short form” since the 1960s, she says. The forms have changed somewhat in appearance over the ensuring decades, she notes, and says there are no doubt differences between certificates issued in, say 1961 and those issued now. “When you request a birth certificate, the one you get looks exactly like the one posted on his site,” she says. “That’s the birth certificate.” The so-called “short form” “certification of live birth” would show if Obama had been born in a foreign land, she says. The certificate states that he was born in Honolulu. (Fairley 7/1/2009)
The non-partisan PolitiFact, an organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, finds that claims of a bill pending in Congress is intended to “cloak” “proof” about President Obama’s supposed foreign birth are entirely specious. The 2009 Free Flow of Information Act, passed by the House of Representatives in March, is, according to some in the “birther” movement, actually intended to protect Obama from having to produce his long-form birth certificate (see June 13, 2008). Some conservative bloggers are calling it the “Obama Birth Certificate Protection Act.” An email making the rounds of the Internet claims the bill “would guarantee Barack Obama will never be held accountable for producing forged birth documents,” and asks recipients to protest its passage in the Senate. PolitiFact finds that the Free Flow of Information Act is designed to prevent a citizen from providing “testimony or produce any document related to information obtained or created by such covered person as part of engaging in journalism, unless a court determines by a preponderance of the evidence” due to compulsion by federal authorities. It is primarily designed to protect journalists who fear retaliation if they print sensitive or embarrassing information in their publications. However, the “birthers” say the bill would protect federal employees from being compelled to release documents. The bill is clear in stating that “covered persons” are journalists, bloggers, and anybody else “who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.” Sophia Cope of the Newspaper Association of America says: “[A] covered person is simply a journalist. The White House would not fall under that.… The bill’s intent is to protect reporters and their confidential sources from being subpoenaed to testify, or from having to disclose the identity of those sources. I don’t see how it would relate to Obama’s birth certificate.” The bill was introduced in 2006, well before Obama announced his candidacy for president; PolitiFact writes, “The idea that it is a covert attempt to block Obama from producing his birth certificate is absurd.” It is also anything but a partisan bill; it passed the House on a simple voice vote, and passed earlier on a vote of 398-21. It is expected to pass the Senate with little difficulty. PolitiFact concludes: “One could argue that this law has simply been misread by some well-intentioned government watchdogs. But this is just the latest conspiracy theory from the fringe of a conservative group convinced that Obama hasn’t provided sufficient documentation to prove he was born in the United States, and therefore cannot serve as president. Even among these folks, the claim about the Free Flow of Information Act is more than a stretch.” (Fairley 7/1/2009) The bill will bog down in the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2009. (Review 2011)
California attorney Orly Taitz posts an image of what she says is President Obama’s “true” birth certificate, this one issued in Kenya (see June 13, 2008). Taitz then files a motion in federal court to prove its authenticity. The conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND) quickly publishes an article repeating Taitz’s claim. WND notes that the Kenyan document lists Obama’s parents as “Barack Hussein Obama and Stanley Ann Obama, formerly Stanley Ann Dunham.” The birth date is August 4, 1961, and the hospital of birth is Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya. The document lists no attending doctor. It does list the signature of the deputy registrar of Coast Province, Joshua Simon Oduya. According to the document, it was issued as a certified copy of the original in February 1964. WND claims that it has compared the Taitz document to other Kenyan birth certificates, and, it concludes, “the form of the documents appear to be identical.” WND admits that other fraudulent Kenyan birth certificates have recently been posted on the Internet, but, it says, “[t]he new document released by Taitz bears none of the obvious traits of a hoax.” Critics note that the Taitz document was certified as being issued by the Republic of Kenya on February 17, 1964, though the Republic of Kenya did not come into existence until December 1964. However, WND says, “Kenya’s official independence was in 1963, and any number of labels could have been applied to government documents during that time period.” According to WND, Taitz says she received the document “from an anonymous source who doesn’t want his name known because ‘he’s afraid for his life.’” Taitz’s court filing, in the US District Court for the Central District of California, requests the purported evidence of Obama’s birth—both the alleged birth certificate and foreign records not yet obtained—be preserved from destruction, asks for permission to legally request documents from Kenya, and seeks a subpoena for deposition from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Taitz tells WND: “I filed the motion with the court asking for expedited discovery, which would allow me to start subpoenas and depositions even before Obama and the government responds. I am asking the judge to give me the power to subpoena the documents from the Kenyan embassy and to require a deposition from Hillary Clinton so they will be forced to authenticate [the birth certificate]. I’m forcing the issue, where Obama will have to respond.… Before, they said, ‘You don’t have anything backing your claims.’ Now I have something. In fact, I have posted on the Internet more than Obama has (see June 13, 2008). My birth certificate actually has signatures.” Taitz says she plans to file more documents with the court in the following days. (St. Petersburg Times 8/2/2009; WorldNetDaily 8/2/2009)
Forgery - PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, asks for clarification from Salim Lone, the spokesman for Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Lone says via email: “It’s a forgery. Kenya only became a republic in December, 1964. Other arguments could also be marshaled, but they are not needed.” Blogger Steve Eddy then finds a nearly-identical document on the Internet using Google Search, posted on a genealogy Web site by an Australian, David Jeffrey Bomford. Eddy compares the two and, according to PolitiFact: “Same format. Same book and page number in the birth registry. Some of the officials’ last names were even the same.” Eddy tells PolitiFact, “At that point, it was pretty obvious the Kenyan one was a fake, that someone had used this real one from Australia to make their version.” An ABC affiliate in Australia asks Bomford, a public service clerk in Adelaide, about the controversy, and Bomford replies: “That is ridiculous. Little old person in Adelaide, the president of the United States. I don’t know whether to laugh about it or not, be worried about it.” Bomford says he had nothing to do with the hoax. “It’s little old me and my mum and everything else up there,” he says. The birth certificate he posted online is his own, he says. “Oh, I definitely confirm that the birth certificate was mine. That was quite easy to see—my address, even the style of the birth certificate was an old South Australian one. So it’s quite easy to identify that it’s mine.… It’s definitely a copy of my certificate. It’s so laughable it’s ridiculous.” (St. Petersburg Times 8/2/2009) The Washington Independent’s David Weigel notes , “The image is part of the extremely ill-informed conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Mombasa—conveniently, one of the more Muslim parts of the country.” The Obama family lives in an entirely different part of Kenya, over a thousand miles from Mombasa. Moreover, at the time of Obama’s birth, Mombasa was not a part of Kenya, but part of Zanzibar. (Weigel 8/3/2009)
Rebuttal - Taitz posts on her Web site that Bomford’s certificate, not her own, is the fake, and says Bomford or someone else altered that certificate from the “original” Obama certificate to discredit her. Eddy says of Taitz’s claim, “There’s no reasoning with some of these people.” A blogger from “Obama Not Qualified” writes a long screed detailing his or her belief that the Taitz document is real, though noting his or her belief that the photo Taitz originally posted may not be real, and giving a step-by-step walkthrough of how to create a falsified document. PolitiFact receives a response from Val Edyvean, registrar of births, deaths and marriages for South Australia, saying: “It appears that a South Australian loaded an image of his own birth certificate onto a family history Web site and that the format was used by others to ‘create’ a document which purported to be a Kenyan birth certificate for Barack Obama. As the South Australian man has now removed this image, and the date of his birth is in the period of certificates which are restricted from public access, I do not intend to add to speculation by commenting on details of either that certificate or any aspects of it.” (Obama Not Qualified 2008; St. Petersburg Times 8/2/2009)
Conclusion - WND publisher Joseph Farah publishes a column expressing his feeling that the Taitz certificate is “probably” a forgery, and claims that WND never made any assertion of its validity. (Farah also says that the State of Hawaii has “steadfastly refused” to state that the birth certificate posted by the Obama campaign in 2008 is valid, a false statement—see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). “The Kenyan document could be real. I haven’t seen a single disqualifying error pointed out in the last 24 hours. But I still strongly suspect it is not,” he writes. Instead, he says, WND posted the certificate and the accompanying article so that it could be fact-checked. He then claims that Obama has “hidden” his real birth certificate and “virtually every other meaningful document in his life” from public scrutiny. (Farah 8/4/2009) PolitiFact concludes that the Taitz certificate “is a fake.” However, “we have no delusions this changes anyone’s mind in the birther movement.” (St. Petersburg Times 8/2/2009)
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) calls the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” overturning of corporate campaign finance restrictions (see January 21, 2010) a disaster. Schumer says, “With a stroke of a pen, the court decided to overrule the 100-year-old ban on corporate expenditures and override the will of millions of Americans who want their voices heard in our democracy.” Other Democrats agree. When questioned about Schumer’s comments by reporters from the Tampa Bay Times’s PolitiFact investigative arm, Schumer’s office says that the “100-year-old” reference refers to the 1907 Tillman Act (see 1907), and cites Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent, which stated: “The majority’s approach to corporate electioneering marks a dramatic break from our past. Congress has placed special limitations on campaign spending by corporations ever since the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907.” PolitiFact finds that Schumer’s characterization is “a stretch” because of the differences between independent expenditures and direct contributions. Independent expenditures are monies spent by corporations to support or oppose an issue or a candidate. Direct contributions are donations to a candidate’s campaign. Corporations may not make direct contributions to campaigns; they have to form political action committees (PACs) for that purpose. The Citizens United decision does not affect that portion of the law. According to PolitiFact, the Tillman Act applies more to independent expenditures than to direct contributions, as does the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act (see June 23, 1947). Schumer’s characterization, PolitiFact finds, is not entirely accurate. “[H]e ignores the fact that the ban on direct donations from corporations to campaigns still exists,” PolitiFact writes. “And the oldest law that specifically banned independent expenditures dated to 1947. You could also argue that we should be dating this from the 1970s campaign finance laws, or even the 1990 Austin case (see March 27, 1990). So he’s exaggerating the scope of the ruling and how long the laws have been on the books.” (Tampa Bay Times 1/22/2010) Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) joins Schumer and other Democrats in criticizing the ruling, calling it the “worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case” (see March 6, 1857). (Think Progress 1/22/2010)
A chain email makes the rounds of the Internet containing a purported Associated Press (AP) article that claims to hold evidence that President Obama is not an American citizen (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, and July 29, 2009). The story claims that transcripts from Obama’s first university, Occidental College, show that Obama attended the school under the name “Barry Soetoro” and received financial aid as a native of Indonesia. The alleged AP story reads in part: “The group ‘Americans for Freedom of Information’ has released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College. Released today, the transcript school [sic] indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, investigates the claim. AP spokesman Jack Stokes tells PolitiFact the story is not valid: “It is not an AP story,” he says. PolitiFact then performs Google and Lexis-Nexis searches, and finds no information on any such group named “Americans for Freedom of Information.” The story, PolitiFact notes, is dated April 1, 2009, April Fool’s Day. Occidental College official Jim Tranquada confirms that the school has not released Obama’s transcripts, because it has never received a request from Obama to do so, and unless it receives such a request, it cannot, under federal law, release the transcripts to anyone. Obama called himself “Barry” when he entered Occidental, but according to the recollections of friends and acquaintances, began calling himself “Barack” by the time he left. “Soetoro” is the name of Obama’s stepfather, with whom he lived in Indonesia while a small child. Tranquada confirms that Obama registered under the name “Obama” and not “Soetoro.” The email’s claim that Obama applied for a Fulbright scholarship cannot be verified by any records. (St. Petersburg Times 6/28/2010)
The non-partisan PolitiFact, an organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, responds to a recent claim that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has approved a case challenging President Obama’s US citizenship (see October 31, 2008 and After). The claim comes from a chain email circulating around the Internet that purports to feature an Associated Press (AP) article titled, “Very Quietly Obama’s Citizenship Case Reaches the Supreme Court.” The article is not a legitimate AP creation, according to AP spokesperson Jack Stokes, and in fact is an April Fool’s Day joke. The email quotes the article as saying, “Under growing pressure from several groups, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments concerning Obama’s legal eligibility to serve as president in a case brought by Leo Donofrio of New Jersey.” Donofrio has indeed sued New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Wells in an attempt to block New Jersey’s certification of Obama’s presidential victory there in November 2008; Donofrio claimed that Obama has dual US-British citizenship and therefore is ineligible to be president. The case was turned down by the Supreme Court. PolitiFact notes that it takes four Justices, not one, to have the Court hear a case. In such an instance, the Court issues a “writ of certiorari,” sometimes referred to as “cert.” No individual justice ever makes such an announcement. Donofrio’s case first went to Justice David Souter, who denied the request. It then went to Justice Clarence Thomas, who submitted it to committee. The Court denied “cert” for the case. PolitiFact calls the claim “ridiculous and misleading.” (St. Petersburg Times 6/28/2010)
A chain email circulating on the Internet claims that because Barack Obama went to Pakistan in 1981, he cannot be a US citizen. The argument, according to the email, is: “Pakistan was on the US State Department’s ‘no travel’ list in 1981. [Therefore,] when Obama went to Pakistan in 1981 he was traveling either with a British passport or an Indonesian passport.” Had Pakistan actually been on the “no travel” list in 1981, Obama would have had to either travel there illegally, or use the passport of a foreign national. PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, investigates the claim. It is true that Obama went to Pakistan in 1981, during a summer vacation; he went to Indonesia to visit his mother and then to Pakistan with a college friend. But in 1981, according to the State Department, Pakistan was perfectly accessible to US citizens. State Department public affairs officer Ivna Giauque says, “According to our Pakistan experts, there was no travel ban to Pakistan in 1981.” PolitiFact notes that in August 1981, the State Department issued a “travel advisory” for Pakistan, but that would not have precluded any American from visiting Pakistan had he or she chosen to do so. In August 1981, the US consul general in Lahore wrote a letter to the New York Times encouraging Americans to visit the country. And a March 1981 New York Times featured an advertisement listing Karachi and Lahore as two destinations in their travel package. PolitiFact concludes that in the case of the email, “[s]omebody was just looking for an excuse to promote the birther conspiracy.” (St. Petersburg Times 6/28/2010) The “travel ban” was advanced as an argument against Obama’s citizenship in a 2008 lawsuit which was summarily thrown out of court (see August 21-24, 2008).
PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, reports on a recent addition to YouTube, the publicly accessible Internet video channel. The YouTube video in question purports to show a videotape of President Obama admitting that he is not an American citizen. An email containing the YouTube link reads in part: “Obama admits he is not a citizen—read before this is pulled. Unbelievable!!!!!… Why has he not been impeached?… The amazing part of this travesty is Americans continue allowing themselves to be ruled by an illegal alien.” The 11-minute video, online since May 2 (and still available as of April 2011), is titled, “Not Natural Born—TRUTH MATTERS.” The video begins with a 30-second clip showing Obama speaking before an audience. In the clip, which begins in mid-sentence, Obama is heard saying: “… that maybe I’m not an American citizen. Some people said he has a forged birth certificate. Well, first of all, it’s true I’m not an American. I was not born in Hawaii. I wasn’t born in the United States of America. I come from Kenya.” PolitiFact quickly determines that Obama’s voice has been badly edited, writing: “The volume and sound quality of his voice change at key points, such as between ‘it’s true I’m not’ and ‘an American.’ The video never shows his lips where he makes his key admissions, so you can’t see if his lips are in sync with what he’s saying. And his audience offers no reaction to what should be a stunning admission.” The video comes from a Web site called “obamasnippets.com,” which advertises itself as a source for YouTube humor videos that contain videos of Obama edited and altered for satirical purposes. The “obamasnippets” channel notes: “This is not ‘political.’ This is just for fun. This is not an ‘anti-Obama’ site. This is not a ‘pro-Obama’ site. This is an ‘Obama humor’ site.… All snippets made with 100 percent Obama’s voice. No imitations! (That would be too easy.)” The video as posted on “obamasnippets” is called “Birthers’ Delight—Part 1” and includes a disclaimer indicating that it is a spoof. However, the “Truth Matters” video has stripped off the disclaimer and added background music, “perhaps in an attempt to disguise the telltale signs of editing,” PolitiFact observes. The video receives over a million viewings on YouTube by August 4. PolitiFact dismisses it as a clumsy fraud. (St. Petersburg Times 8/3/2010)
WorldNetDaily, a conservative news blog, reports that Governor Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) says the Hawaii Department of Health may not be able to locate the “long form” birth certificate for President Obama that it is required to keep on file. Previously, Health Department chief Chiyome Fukino said that she has personally seen the “long form” certificate and can vouch for its authenticity (see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). According to an article written by Jerome Corsi, Abercrombie tells a Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter that he intends to find “definitive valid records” that prove Obama was born in Hawaii in order to head off a possible controversy during Obama’s 2012 re-election bid (see December 24, 2010). Corsi has written numerous attacks on Obama in the past, and most have been found to have been riddled with errors and falsehoods (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, and October 9, 2008). Corsi also reports that Abercrombie intends to find and make public what Corsi calls “a recording of the Obama birth in the state archives,” presumably the long form. “It was actually written, I am told, this is what our investigation is showing, it actually exists in the archives, written down,” Abercrombie says. Corsi says that the “short form” birth certificate provided by Obama during the 2008 election campaign (see June 13, 2008) is fraudulent, and that though “two purportedly independent Web sites that have displayed a strong partisan bias for Obama—Snopes.com… FactCheck.org” have published photographs of the document (see August 21, 2008), WND reports have stated that “the Hawaii Department of Health has refused to authenticate the COLB [certificate of live birth] posted on the Internet.” Corsi goes on to say that Obama’s parents could have lied about his birth to Hawaiian authorities, and that newspaper announcements of his birth published in 1961 (see July 2008) “do not prove he was born in Hawaii, since they could have been triggered by the grandparents registering the birth as Hawaiian, even if the baby was born elsewhere.” Corsi also says that the address in the press announcements was that of Obama’s maternal grandparents, not his father’s, who maintained a separate apartment in Honolulu “after he was supposedly married to Ann Dunham, Barack Obama’s mother.” He also claims that “Dunham left Hawaii within three weeks of the baby’s birth to attend the University of Washington in Seattle,” apparently in an effort to insinuate that she is not Obama’s actual mother. Corsi quotes Tim Adams, whom he identifies as “a former senior elections clerk for the city and county of Honolulu in 2008,” as saying that “no long form, hospital-generated birth certificate” for Obama exists in the Hawaiian Department of Health, “and that neither Honolulu hospital—Queens Medical Center or Kapiolani Medical Center—has any record that Obama was born there.” (Corsi 1/18/2011) The non-partisan fact-checking organization PolitiFact will investigate Corsi’s claims, and find them fraudulent (see February 14-27, 2011). Four months later, Obama will release the “long form” certificate (see April 27, 2011).
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)
Texas State Representative Leo C. Berman (R-TX), discussing his proposed bill to require presidential candidates to show their birth certificates to the Texas secretary of state, says the bill centers on “doubts” about whether President Obama was actually born in the US, and therefore is a US citizen. Berman is referring to the ongoing “birther” controversy that has cast doubt on Obama’s citizenship (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, Around June 28, 2010, and February 10, 2011). “We don’t think the president was vetted, and it’s just that simple,” Berman tells a reporter. “I read different things that say he was born in Hawaii, and then I read the governor [of Hawaii] can’t find anything that says he was born in Hawaii.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, investigates Berman’s claim that Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) “can’t find anything that says” Obama was born in his state. A PolitiFact researcher contacts Berman for clarification, and Berman says: “I just listen to the news, I don’t write it down. It’s been on several news stations that he [Abercrombie] said he was going to resolve this once and for all, and when he tried to… he couldn’t find anything.” Berman has expressed his doubts about Obama’s heritage before, telling a Lubbock, Texas, reporter that “the American people don’t know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place.” While Obama’s father was born in Kenya, Obama himself was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Obama has released a valid copy of his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008), and the certificate has been validated numerous times (see June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, and July 28, 2009). However, Berman says the document released by the Obama campaign is the “short form” certificate, and questions why Obama has never released the “long form” certificate. Hawaiian officials have long debunked the idea that there is any significant difference between the two versions (see July 1, 2009). Abercrombie has expressed his anger over the “birther” controversy, and says he intends to seek ways to release more “explicit” documentation about Obama’s birth, presumably the “long form” that by Hawaiian law must remain in state government possession (see December 24, 2010). Berman is apparently referring to an article on the conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND), which in January reported that Abercrombie suggested that the “long form” certificate for Obama “may not exist” (see January 18, 2011). Hollyword reporter Mike Evans, who represents himself as a longtime friend of Abercrombie’s, has told a KQRS-FM interviewer in Minnesota that Abercrombie told him he searched “everywhere” at Hawaii hospitals and that “there is no Barack Obama birth certificate in Hawaii. Absolutely no proof at all that he was born in Hawaii.” However, Evans was later quoted on FoxNews.com as saying he misspoke, and confirmed that he never spoke to Abercrombie at all once his “friend” became governor of Hawaii. Hawaii Health Department spokesperson Janice Okubo tells PolitiFact that Berman is incorrect in believing that there is any real difference between the “long form” and “short form” certificates: “When you request a birth certificate, the one you get looks exactly like the one posted on his site. That’s the birth certificate.” PolitiFact finds Berman’s statements entirely false. (St. Petersburg Times 2/27/2011)
Mike Huckabee (R-AR), the former governor of Arkansas, currently a host on Fox News and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, speculates that President Obama may have been born in Kenya. If this were true, Obama would not be eligible to be president. Huckabee states, incorrectly, that Obama grew up in Kenya. Huckabee is appearing on a radio show hosted by conservative Steve Malzberg. The host brings up the subject of Obama’s “controversial” birth certificate (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), and asks, “Don’t you think we deserve to know more about this man?” Huckabee responds: “I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits, the bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British (see June 29, 2009). But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, believes that Huckabee is echoing discredited claims recently made by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, who accused Obama of being an “anti-colonialist” and covert supporter of Kenyan extremists (see September 12, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After, September 12, 2010 and After, September 16, 2010, September 17, 2010, September 23, 2010, and September 23-24, 2010). Contrary to Huckabee’s assertions, Obama did not grow up in Kenya. He had virtually no contact with his Kenyan father and never met his paternal grandfather, whom D’Souza wrote had such a powerful influence on him. Instead, Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. After the interview on Malzberg’s show, Huckabee corrects his error, saying: “On Monday, while on Steve Malzberg’s radio show on New York’s WOR Radio, I was asked about the President Obama’s birth certificate issue. In my answer, I simply misspoke when I alluded to President Obama growing up in ‘Kenya’ and meant to say Indonesia.” PolitiFact notes that in the past, Huckabee has warned against buying into the idea that Obama is not a US citizen, affirmed Obama’s Christianity, and praised Obama as a role model for fathers (see February 23, 2011). (St. Petersburg Times 2/28/2011)
Georgia State Representative Mark Hatfield (R-GA) introduces his so-called “birther” bill, House Bill 401, which would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to prove their citizenship before being placed on Georgia’s elections ballot. “I think the issue with our sitting president has been left unresolved for a significant length of time that people have concerns,” Hatfield says. “But this is not just about our current president. It’s about enforcing the constitutional provisions for anyone who seeks the office of presidency.” Ninety-three fellow representatives, all Republicans, sign on to Hatfield’s bill as co-sponsors. By the next day, March 3, 20 withdraw their names, and several more withdraw the following day. On March 4, local attorney and Libertarian Loren Collins publishes a scathing op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noting that Hatfield’s bill would create requirements for president that do not exist in the US Constitution. Noting that the bill would require candidates to affirm that they have never held dual citizenships in other countries, Collins writes: “There is not and never has been any constitutional rule mandating that the president ‘has never held dual or multiple citizenship.’ This is pure birther fantasy, a nonexistent bit of pseudo law that an attorney such as Hatfield should know better than to promote.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, determines that Collins’s claim of the bill’s extraconstitutionality is true. When PolitiFact contacts Collins for comment, the lawyer reminds it that Article II of the Constitution reads: “No Person except a natural born Citizen… shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The language does not and should not exclude candidates who are or were dual citizens, Collins says. Foreign law decided who qualifies for dual citizenship, and foreign law should not decide who is eligible to be US president. Hatfield tells PolitiFact that he does not consider himself a “birther,” but wants proof that Obama is indeed eligible to be president. “We’ve seen a computer-generated summary of a live birth but not the particulars of his birth on a long form,” Hatfield says (see June 13, 2008 and July 1, 2009). “Congress has never created an enforcement mechanism, so it is up to the states to step up and fill the gap.” Hatfield says the Founders thought that presidents should be born in the United States, their parents should be citizens, and dual citizens should be barred to avoid foreign influence. That’s why the Constitution uses the term “natural born citizen” instead of “citizen,” he says. PolitiFact writes, “Under Hatfield’s definition, Obama couldn’t be president.” Neither could Obama’s 2008 challenger, John McCain (R-AZ), who was born to a US military family in the Panama Canal Zone (see March 14 - July 24, 2008). PolitiFact learns from legal experts on US citizenship that Hatfield’s “natural born” concept does not exist in the law. Law professor Peter Spiro says: “If that [the bill] passes in Georgia’s Statehouse, it will be challenged and it will be struck down as unconstitutional. I am 100 percent confident.” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, says Hatfield’s bill contains a dual-citizenship ban that does not exist in the Constitution. “It’s trying to add an additional requirement to the eligibility for president,” von Spakovsky says. According to PolitiFact, legal scholars agree that the Founders intended to block naturalized citizens, or those who became citizens after their birth, from becoming president. However, Spiro notes, the law has never been tested, the Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue, and no candidate with dual citizenship or who was born outside the country has won the presidency. (Hunt 3/1/2011; St. Petersburg Times 3/4/2011) Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-GA) says he does not believe the bill will win passage. “I’m not promoting the bill or squelching discussion. We’ll have a discussion, and then we’ll see what happens,” he says. “I believe President Obama is the duly elected president of the United States. I’ve never followed the ‘birther’ school of thought.” (Galloway 3/2/2011)
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)
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) tells a CBS News viewing audience that the Obama administration is lying when it says the US government would default on its loans if Congress refuses to raise the US debt ceiling. Bachmann accuses the Obama administration of using “scare tactics” to push for a debt-ceiling increase. Bachmann has said previously that Congress should not raise the debt ceiling (see April 30, 2011). Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other Obama adminstration members, along with a bevy of economists and financial leaders including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Chairman Alan Greenspan, have urged Congress to raise the debt ceiling by August 2 to avoid the US defaulting on its outstanding loans and engendering what many call an economic catastrophe (see May 20, 2011). The US Treasury has used accounting steps, what it calls “extraordinary measures,” to avoid default since the nation reached its debt limit on May 16. The final deadline for the US to raise its debt limit is August 2. Bernanke and others have said that even a brief US default could cause an uproar in the global economy. But Bachmann says she has “no intention” of voting for a hike to the limit, saying instead: “It isn’t true that the government would default on its debt. Because, very simply, the Treasury secretary can pay the interest on the debt first, and then, from there, we have to just prioritize our spending.” Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer asks Bachman: “Experts inside and outside the government say that, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we face the United States having to default on its financial obligations. Are you saying these are scare tactics? Or are you saying that’s not true? How can you say that?” Bachmann replies: “It is scare tactics. Because, Bob, the interest on the debt isn’t any more than 10 percent of what we’re taking in. In fact, it’s less than that. And so the Treasury secretary can very simply pay the interest on the debt first, then we’re not in default.… What it means is we have to seriously prioritize. It would be very tough love. But, I have been here long enough in Washington, DC, that I’ve seen smoke and mirrors time and time again.” Bachmann says if elected president, she would end the nation’s deficit problem by making extreme cuts in spending. “I would begin very seriously by cutting spending,” she says. “President Obama, again, he spent a trillion dollar stimulus program that’s been an abject failure. We need to seriously cut back on spending first and foremost, and then prioritize.” Her only recommendation to handle the job crisis is to cut corporate tax rates; she explains: “We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world; we need to drop that significantly, so that we have a pro-business, pro-job creation environment. So if we cut back the corporate tax rate, if we would zero out the capital gains rates, allow for 100 percent expensing when a job creator buys equipment for their business, that would go a long way toward job creators recognizing that this is a pro-business environment.” She says that the administration’s health care package, which she calls “Obamacare,” will cost “800,000 jobs.” Schieffer says, “That is data that other people would question,” and she retorts by saying the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), not she herself, has made that claim. A recent analysis by the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact showed that Bachmann’s claim of “Obamacare” costing 800,000 jobs is an “exaggeration” of the CBO’s figures, and is “misleading.” Bachmann dodges questions about the elimination of the minimum wage, which she has advocated since 2005, and the elimination of farm subsidies, from which she and her family have benefited. (Madison 6/26/2011)
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) issues accusations that Americans on government aid programs are in many cases wasteful drug users who use their aid money to go on lavish vacations. Gingrich, riding a surge of popularity as the Iowa caucuses approach, calls President Obama “the food stamp president” during his stump speeches. In an appearance in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Gingrich says: “Remember, this is the best food stamp president in history. So more Americans today get food stamps than before. And we now give it away as cash—you don’t get food stamps. You get a credit card, and the credit card can be used for anything. We have people who take their food stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii. They give food stamps now to millionaires because, after all, don’t you want to be compassionate? You know, the Obama model: isn’t there somebody you’d like to give money to this week. That’s why we’re now going to help bailout Italy because we haven’t bailed out enough people this week, the president thought let’s write another check. After all, we have so much extra money.” The nonpartisan fact-checking entity PolitiFact calls Gingrich’s accusations complete lies. The “food stamp program,” known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has very strict guidelines about what can and cannot be bought with federal aid dollars. Except for very limited exceptions, SNAP recipients cannot use aid money for restaurant meals or to buy anything other than groceries. SNAP funds cannot be used to buy alcoholic beverages. The “electronic benefits transfer” card, or EBT cards, are similar in appearance to credit cards, but have a very different function. EBT cardholders cannot use their cards to buy airline tickets, whether it be for Hawaiian vacations or anything else. PolitiFact doubts that any recipients would have enough funds to buy such tickets in the first place; the average monthly SNAP benefit is $134 per person. Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution says, “There is undoubtedly some illegal bartering of EBT cards—though I understand trafficking in EBT cards is less than under the old food stamps—but I am having trouble imagining how you could barter an EBT card for an airplane ticket.” PolitiFact notes that Gingrich’s claims may have come from a recent news broadcast in St. Louis, which found that some Missouri SNAP recipients spent $2,737 on food in Hawaii in January 2011. The money, though spent out of state, was spent on legitimate goods such as groceries. The amount was .07 percent of the total money allocated to SNAP residents in Missouri for January 2011. And the Missouri beneficiaries had legitimate reasons to be in Hawaii—some of them were members of the military transferred to new duty bases, for example. If the Missouri story is the source of Gingrich’s claims, PolitiFact notes, then Gingrich completely misrepresented the facts of the story. As far as the “food stamps for millionaires” claim, anyone who earns over 130 percent of the poverty line cannot receive benefits. No such beneficiaries have been identified, and if they do exist, they are breaking the law. Michael Wiseman of George Washington University says, “I would challenge Newt Gingrich to find a millionaire in annual income who gets on food stamps legally.” PolitiFact says that Gingrich’s claims are “so ridiculous” that the researchers thought for a time that he might be joking. Think Progress reporter Marie Diamond calls Gingrich’s claims “absurd.” At a recent campaign event in Iowa, citizen Don Brantz confronted Gingrich, saying: “You don’t always tell the truth, Mr. Gingrich, and that food stamp thing is one of them. Iowa already has a computer system. We do not pay money so the people on food stamps can buy beer and anything else. It’s a very specific thing.” (Diamond notes that Gingrich is a frequent world traveller, taking lengthy vacations in luxury spots around the world. In one instance, he told reporters that after taking a luxury cruise in Greece, he came away with a deeper understanding of the European financial crisis.) (St. Petersburg Times 12/1/2011; Diamond 12/2/2011; Khan 1/2/2012) MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz will say that Gingrich, like fellow Republican candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA), “is also quick to connect programs like food stamps to the African-American community.” Schultz’s guest, author and radio host Michael Eric Dyson, says: “I don’t think we need Newt Gingrich’s pedagogy in the NAACP. I think this is condescension at its most poignant. And, as with Rick Santorum, when you have pet Negro causes, you tend to treat Negros like pets.” New York Times columnist Charles Blow will say of Gingrich’s remarks that “this sort of racial pandering is exactly what happens at this point in a race.” Blow calls Gingrich’s remarks “extreme, very racist.” (Byers 1/6/2012)
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