If President Obama thought he had definitively deflated the birther conspiracy set and its enablers in the right-wing media, he is undoubtedly mistaken. In predictable fashion, following Obama's press conference and the release of his long-form birth certificate, right-wing media figures repurposed the news to attack him. They seized on Obama's reference to the birther nonsense as "silliness" to fling his reported visit to the Oprah set in his face.
As Michelle Malkin observed: "[H]ere we have him -- had him have his press conference in D.C. lecturing us about the need to be serious, and then he turned his heels and immediately went to that serious venue, Oprah Winfrey."
The silliness has since only multiplied. Conservative media figures are now pointing to Obama's meeting on immigration issues with Latino celebrities and other high-profile Spanish-language stars to further push their "Obama is not serious" narrative. As the New York Post put it: "While President Obama said he had no time for birther 'silliness' earlier this week, his meeting with Latino celebrities and media stars was nothing but." The headline for the Post article read: "Obama on immigration is nothing but unserious silliness."
What has these media so outraged is that among the dozen or so people Obama invited for his immigration sit-down were actresses Eva Longoria, Rosario Dawson, and America Ferrera. "Yes, that Eva Longoria," sneered RedState.com, presumably alluding to the actress' role on ABC's Desperate Housewives. The New York Post added: "Perhaps Obama bought Longoria's new cookbook in exchange for a campaign contribution."
Malkin, responding to a Post tweet that noted, "Obama meeting w/Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty stars at White House," wrote:
The folks at National Review Online employed similar tack; under a headline reading, "The President's Seriousness about Immigration Reform," Peter Kirsanow wrote:
[T]o address this serious problem [of immigration reform], President Obama has announced that he will hold a summit to discuss "the importance of fixing the broken immigration system." The Hill reports that the following are the experts invited to the summit: actresses Eva Longoria, Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera, Univision host Maria Elena Salinas, Telemundo anchor Vanessa Hauc, and Spanish-language radio host Eddie Sotelo. White House advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe will also attend.
Serious is as serious does.
But in their rush to malign the Latina stars for lacking the gravitas of "renowned immigration policy experts," not one of these media figures mentioned the fact that all "have been active in Hispanic causes," as The Boston Globe noted in its write-up.
Indeed, Longoria just co-produced a documentary, The Harvest, that "exposes the harsh conditions under which three undocumented children work and live, day-to-day, in the United States." This is an issue Longoria says she has been involved with for years, and she intends "to be the voice of these children no one listens to."
In August 2010, Dawson, the co-founder of Voto Latino, launched the United We Win campaign to fight Arizona's immigration law. Dawson was able to get Longoria and other stars to appear in ads for that campaign, which she hoped would "get young people to fight for human rights by voting." Dawson reportedly stated:
"We recognize that this isn't just a Mexican issue or a Latino issue... There are people blogging and Tweeting for everything, from the BP spill to education and healthcare. ... We're all buzzing about these things, but unless we're actually marching to the polls, nothing is going to actually change.
"When you look back at Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, he got arrested and asked everyone else to get arrested....and people were afraid to step forward. Who was going to be the people who stepped up? The people who did were high schoolers because they weren't afraid of being arrested. We're all underage, and that was really crucial in getting the civil rights movement going -- getting young people's participation."
"I certainly didn't expect to jump into anything on TV that shortly after being off Betty," the Emmy-winning actress tells TVGuide.com of her guest stint on The Good Wife as graduate student and illegal alien Natalie. "For me, the appeal was just how [creators and executive producers Robert and Michelle King] were really interested in addressing this topic and having the character set in the world of these hot-button issues of immigrants in this country. My heart is very close to those issues."
"[Natalie] is sort of the anti-stereotype of what people imagine when they hear those labels," she says. "It felt like the Kings would be really great people to explore that world in ways that could show their audience an alternative to general preconceived notions about illegal immigrants."
Because of her personal interest in the issue, Ferrera was able to contribute to the conversation about the character as well, such as the inclusion of important relevant topics like the DREAM Act (a proposed piece of legislation that would grant residency to select illegal aliens who entered the U.S. as minors and graduated from American high schools).
Moreover, Obama has held meetings about the issue with so-called "renowned immigration policy experts." The week before his sit-down with Latino celebrities, Obama held an April 19 meeting on "fixing the broken immigration system" that included former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others.
But, regardless, who no better to spur renewed dialogue of immigration issues with than Latino stars and celebrities with access to farther-reaching megaphones than Obama's? While they may not be steeped in the minutiae of policy debates, which often bog down and derail reform, they have proved they know the issues and are active in fighting for reform. In essence, they've shown they are serious about fixing the broken immigration system, whether their day jobs involve acting or not.
Can the same be said of the right-wing media? Well, when all you hear from conservative media figures is an amalgam of mouthed insults about the imminent threat of "illegals" ("illegal aliens") and "anchor babies" ("terror babies"), the answer is no. That shows exactly how serious they are.