As Dobbs digs in, CNN rebuts, ridicules, distances itself from birth certificate claims

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In the wake of Lou Dobbs' repeated claims that President Obama needs to "produce a birth certificate" and that Obama's birth certificate posted online has "some issues," several of Dobbs' CNN colleagues as well as other media figures have debunked Obama birth certificate theories.

In the wake of Lou Dobbs' repeated claims on the July 15 edition of his radio show that President Obama needs to "produce a birth certificate" and that Obama's birth certificate posted online has "some issues," several of Dobbs' CNN colleagues as well as other members of the media have debunked Obama birth certificate theories, often ridiculing those who embrace such theories as "nut jobs" who advance "ludicrous" claims that are "more conspiratorial than factual." Indeed, according to the Los Angeles Times, CNN distanced itself from Dobbs' comments. Reporter James Rainey wrote: "[O]ne CNN employee reminded me several times that Dobbs' most pointed assertions were made on his radio program, which is unconnected to CNN."

Nonetheless, Dobbs has continued to repeat the "birther" claims on both CNN and his radio show, stating on the July 20 edition of his CNN program that the birth certificate questions offered by "passionate supporters" "won't go away because they haven't been dealt with, it seems possible to, straightforwardly and quickly," and saying on the July 21 edition of his CNN show, "We had people, including reporters from the LA Times, calling up because I referred to this. ... Instead of calling the White House to ask why they didn't do it, they're calling me to ask why I said I don't know what the reality is. No one does." Additionally, on the July 21 edition of his radio show, Dobbs criticized "certain quarters of the national liberal media that are just absolutely trying to knock down the issue of President Obama's birth certificate," stating that they are "focused on being subservient and servile to this presidency rather than being inquisitive and doing their jobs with, you know, the White House."

CNN hosts, personalities, and guests who have debunked birth certificate claims or criticized their adherents since July 15 include the following:

  • On the July 17 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, guest host Kitty Pilgrim said that CNN "found no basis" for the birth certificate claims and cited "overwhelming evidence that proves that his birth certificate is real, and that he was born in Honolulu," including Obama's birth certificate posted online by FactCheck.org.
  • Later on the July 17 Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN contributor Errol Louis stated of the theory's proponents, "I think what we have here is a case where under the guise of saying, well, we can't trust whether or not he should be president because we don't have the evidence, it's actually the reverse. These are folks -- and there are a number of them, and some of them are raising money, like WorldNetDaily, which is as far as I'm concerned, running a scam, where they're selling all kinds of bumper stickers and stuff like that." Louis later said "They're raising legal fees from across the country and the reality is they don't accept -- they don't accept that the president is the president and, therefore, they work backward and there will never be enough proof to satisfy them."
  • Also on the July 17 Lou Dobbs Tonight, The Daily Beast's John Avlon told Pilgrim, "You've offered a mountain of evidence in addition to two birth announcements. That's a pretty deep conspiracy." He also stated, "What we have here is Obama derangement syndrome. This is pathological hatred of the president posing as patriotism" and later said to Alan Keyes and Orly Taitz, who advocate birth certificate theories, "You guys are nuts."
  • On the July 21 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Rick Sanchez held up a printed copy of Obama's birth certificate and then said, "To a large and vocal group of Americans, this paper that I just showed you might as well be bathroom tissue. Factual? Maybe. Enough to stop the speculation? Absolutely not." Sanchez also stated, "There's something strange about even having to do this story. So for those of you who get this, please, we apologize. But it's gotten to the point where there are so many people in this country who are believing this that it needs to be addressed." He later added: "[W]e certainly hope that there are people out there who do their own fact-checking, see for themselves what's on the record, and see that this seems to be more conspiratorial than factual."
  • On the July 21 edition of Larry King Live, CNN political contributor James Carville said of those who don't believe Obama is a natural-born American citizen: "These people are poor -- these poor pathetic people are believing stuff, just like -- just like [Liz] Cheney tonight. She refuses to say this is ludicrous, because she actually wants to encourage these people to believe this. It's just a simple thing. This is a nutty thing. There's nothing to this. I disagree with this president's policies."
  • In a July 22 column published on CNN.com, CNN contributor Roland S. Martin stated, "The nut jobs that continue to promote this story are wacky, right-wing radio and TV talk shows hosts and no-credibility bloggers. They have latched onto this story like bloodsucking leeches, and actually want us to believe this story has legs." He added:

What cracks me up is that in order to justify their loony beliefs, they say, "The president could just end this once and for all by producing the birth certificate."

Do you actually believe these wackos will stop there? They will then accuse the president of doctoring the document and ordering up the state of Hawaii and federal officials to create the birth certificate.

As Media Matters for America noted, prior to his July 15 radio program, Dobbs' CNN colleagues called the "birthers'" claims "total bull" and "a whack-job project," and characterized those who make such claims as "conspiracy theorists" who wear "tin foil hat[s]."

CNN personalities and guests were not alone in recent days in debunking the birth certificate theories and ridiculing those who give them credence:

  • On the July 21 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, during an interview with Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), who has co-sponsored a bill requiring future presidents to produce their birth certificates, host Chris Matthews asked, "What is going on that so many Americans doubt the obvious, that Barack Obama is a citizen, to the point that you felt it necessary to co-sponsor this crazy proposal?" He also said, "You're verifying the paranoia out there. You're saying to the people, you're right. That's a reasonable question, whether he's a citizen or not." Matthews also accused Campbell of "playing to the crazies" and "feeding the wacko wing" of the Republican Party.
  • On the July 21 edition of her MSNBC program, Rachel Maddow stated that Dobbs "is using the platform of his CNN show to advance the birther conspiracy." She later added, "I mean, one of the things I love about American politics and Americans in general is that we are enthusiastic about conspiracy theories. I find it entertaining. But the sort of the holy grail is to, you know, make CNN, to make the mainstream media to be talked about as if you've got some sort of credible idea."
  • In his July 22 Times article, Rainey quoted Brooks Jackson, director of Annenberg Political Fact Check, who "worked at the cable outlet for more than 20 years," stating of Dobbs' claims, "CNN should be ashamed of itself for putting some of that stuff on the air."
  • On the July 22 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough cited evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii and said of the "conspiracy theorists" who say otherwise: "Now that is not enough for these people. They would rather be like sea lions barking at waves. They would rather, instead of trying to actually figure out what is happening to their country -- the terrible things that are happening economically to their country -- they embrace conspiracy theories. And they make themselves just look like cartoon characters." Scarborough also compared birth certificate conspiracy theorists to people who believe "the United States government blew up its own buildings and killed its own people on September 11" and believe that we "never landed on the moon."
  • On the July 22 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, Matthews referred to the "birthers" as "full-mooners," while host Andrea Mitchell stated that they are "totally nuts."

From the July 21 edition of CNN Newsroom:

SANCHEZ: I want to show you something, all right? Let's get started with this right here. You get this, Robert? Take a look at this right here. See this? Can you shoot this right there? You got it, Robert? All right, this is a printout from the state of Hawaii. It's a certification of live birth. Child's name: Barack Hussein Obama II. See it right there? Can you read that?

All right. Down, lower. And as you go across, you see he was born 7:24 p.m. There it says the island of birth, Oahu. There it says when he was born, August 1961. His parents: his mother is a Caucasian, his father is Barack Hussein Obama, who is an African. All right, there's all the information. This is a reprint of his birth certificate, or as it says here, certificate of birth.

To a large and vocal group of Americans, this paper that I just showed you might as well be bathroom tissue. Factual? Maybe. Enough to stop the speculation? Absolutely not.

This completely unfounded story -- let me repeat -- this completely unfounded story continues to get so much play in certain media that it's led to a congressman's town hall meeting actually getting hijacked.

[...]

SANCHEZ: There's something strange about even having to do this story. So for those of you who get this, please, we apologize. But it's gotten to the point where there are so many people in this country who are believing this that it needs to be addressed.

[...]

SANCHEZ: Do you know what I could show you that could -- it would seem to me that it would put this to bed, right here and now on CNN.

Go down even -- Chris, are you in the control room? Go. Keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going, keep -- there. Stop. See that right there? This is the newspaper in Hawaii back in 1961. This is a birth announcement printed in that newspaper.

"Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama" -- this is part of the announcement saying that a young boy was born, right? Now, what'd you say, Angie? I'm sorry. So, there it is. This is interesting, because if you're saying -- if somebody out there is saying that Barack Obama wasn't born in Hawaii, then his grandparents would have had to have faked this, knowing that some day he was gonna be president, and that they would have to put this in there, so in the future he could come back and say, look, he was born in Hawaii but he wasn't really born in Hawaii.

I mean, that's kind of convincing, isn't it?

BEN FERGUSON (radio host) No, Rick, look, I understand exactly where you're coming from.

But you know in the media as well as anybody else, that when stories take on a life of their own, whether it be a product that somebody's claimed had something in it that wasn't in there, damage control is everything.

And if this man -- he's not afraid of doing press conferences. Lord knows we all know that. So, I mean, why -- I mean, if he can do all the press conferences he does, why not put it to bed in one moment on national TV?

SANCHEZ: Here's another chance to go on TV. He's gonna do it Wednesday.

Viveca, to that, you say what? Maybe he should. Should -- does he need to do a little more proving here?

VIVECA NOVAK (FactCheck.org deputy director): I do think that it -- he may be thinking it's a little unpresidential for him to be coming out at this point showing his birth certificate.

SANCHEZ: Yeah.

NOVAK: I don't know if there is a light way to do it. But, the fact that he's having to do it all is, to us at FactCheck, a bit insane. We don't know quite what to make of it ourselves.

FERGUSON: Hey, Rick, there's always the White House Correspondents' Dinner. There's a good night for it.

SANCHEZ: They'd still wonder. You know. There'd still be those people out there: "Nah, not convinced."

You know, it really is -- it's funny, but it's not so funny. I mean, it's a part of the national conversation. And we certainly hope that there are people out there who do their own fact-checking, see for themselves what's on the record, and see that this seems to be more conspiratorial than factual.

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Lou Dobbs
Show/Publication
Lou Dobbs Tonight
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.