Any look back at right-wing media milestones in 2011 would not be complete without an extended head shaking with regards to the birther comeback staged this year, courtesy of Fox News. Joining forces with reality TV host Donald Trump to resurrect a thoroughly discredited Obama smear campaign, the GOP Noise Machine, by embracing the birther story, provided an early indication of just how far removed from reality their pursuit to delegitimize the president would go this year.
What's also been fascinating is how partisans have used the debunked conspiracy theory to attack the president, while simultaneously insisting the rise of the birther story this year was proof of liberal media bias.
For instance, the Western Center For Journalism, which describes itself as a "Non Profit Organization dedicated to combating liberal media bias and government corruption" was founded by Joseph Farah, proprietor of leading birther website, WorldNetDaily. Recently, in its recent "top 50 examples of media bias" post, the Center perfectly captured the attempt by the conservative media to play both sides of this birther charade.
Number 27 on the list reads "Birthers." But how was the nonsensical far-right crusade to prove Obama isn't a natural born American citizen proof of liberal bias?
It may be true that the so-called "birthers" might generally vote Republican but it does not follow that birtherism is a Republican plank -- the party has neither questioned the point, issued press releases about it, nor made any policy on it. There are no prominent Republicans that support the idea that Obama isn't a natural born citizen. But one would never know that by reading the lefty media.
First, the Western Center For Journalism has apparently never heard of Rick Perry, who embraced birtherism as a presidential candidate. Instead, the Center aggressively pretends Republicans, and by extension major players in the conservative movement, had nothing to do with birther charges this year; that the allegations have been made by outside players. (Like Rick Perry and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh?)
And because Republicans have had nothing to do with the birther claims it's totally unfair for the press to pretend the issue is of significance to conservatives. In fact, it's been a liberal media plot to push the birther story in order to smear and embarrass conservatives. (aka the innocent bystanders.)
So, shorter birther spin: Conservatives are the victims here, not the perpetrators of a nasty Obama smear campaign. That plaintive wail has been a common one this year, particularly on Fox news.
None of that matches reality, of course. But here's the real punch line: On the same day the Center was pushing the claim that the press invented the whole birther story, this headline was featured prominently on the far-right site:
Alabama Man Files Lawsuit to Keep Obama Off Ballot For Eligibility Issues
And as the post made clear (not to mention the cheerleading comments posted by readers), the site clearly considered the issue to be legitimate and seemed to support the loopy right-wing lawsuit [emphasis added]:
Time will tell whether this new challenge to the eligilibity [sic] of Barack Obama will stand. This issue is not going away, however, and Barack Obama can expect many more of these types of legal challengesin the year running up to the 2012 election.
So there you have it. On the same day a conservatives site alleged the press had hyped the trumped up birther story as a way to embarrass conservatives who didn't care about the birth certificate charade, the same site simultaneously hyped the latest turn in the birth certificate charade.
The debacle nicely answers this riddle: Just how badly did the birther debacle tie conservatives up in knots this year?