Vet The Literary Agents: The Breitbart Birther Tease

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

I hesitate to offer advice to the amateur vetting squad over at, but here goes: If you have to start a piece with a disclaimer announcing that "Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of 'Birtherism,'" then you're doing something wrong.

There is no getting out in front of birther allegations.

The latest installment of the self-serious and wildly incompetent "vetting" of President Obama concerns a 1991 pamphlet published by Obama's former literary agency that erroneously describes Obama as being "born in Kenya." The Breitbartlings claim they're not publishing this as bait for the unkillable birther conspiracy, but rather because... well, even they don't seem too sure:

It is evidence--not of the President's foreign origin, but that Barack Obama's public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times.

It's actually evidence of the passive voice's capacity for mischief. And while they might not consider this "evidence" of Obama's "foreign origin," all the birther troglodytes out there certainly do.

Later in the piece they say this fits "a pattern in which Obama -- or the people representing and supporting him -- manipulate his public persona." Um... OK? Left unexplained is what benefit/motive Obama and his support network would have in lying about his birthplace in a pamphlet that would be viewed by a vanishingly small audience.

Also, prior to the pamphlet's publication, Obama had apparently been going around telling major newspapers that he was born in Hawaii. When he was elected to the Harvard Law Review in 1990, the New York Times reported:

The new president of the Review is Barack Obama, a 28-year-old graduate of Columbia University who spent four years heading a community development program for poor blacks on Chicago's South Side before enrolling in law school. His late father, Barack Obama, was a finance minister in Kenya and his mother, Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist now doing fieldwork in Indonesia. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii.

''The fact that I've been elected shows a lot of progress,'' Mr. Obama said today in an interview. ''It's encouraging."

Similar pre-1991 mentions of Obama's Hawaiian birth can be found in articles by the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press.

So none of this really makes any sense or has any explanation that isn't insane. But's that's unimportant because...

Regardless of the reason for Obama's odd biography, the Acton & Dystel booklet raises new questions as part of ongoing efforts to understand Barack Obama -- who, despite four years in office remains a mystery to many Americans, thanks to the mainstream media.

What are those "new questions"? They don't know. They just know they're questions, and they're new, and the media, and Obama, and whatever.

UPDATE: Teagan Goddard of Political Wire got in touch with the literary agency, and they said it was all just a mistake. "This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me -- an agency assistant at the time. There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii."

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