The Associated Press and CNN recently debunked an op-ed featured at The Daily Caller that suggested a recent ammunition purchase by the Social Security Administration evidenced an Obama plot to kill American citizens en masse. The bizarre theory is hardly the first conspiratorial idea to be promoted on the opinion page of The Daily Caller.
Denver Post columnist and local radio host Mike Rosen drew criticism this week when he questioned the citizenship status of President Obama. Media Matters looks back at his long record of extreme and hateful rhetoric.
Fox News' Fox Nation website is now highlighting Donald Trump's interview this afternoon with CNN's Wolf Blitzer using the headline, "Trump Knocks Wolf Blizter [sic] Into Next Week." During the interview, Trump offered up a variety of debunked claims intended to cast doubt on President Obama's place of birth, while Blitzer responded by noting the mountains of evidence definitively proving that Obama was born in Hawaii. At one point, Blitzer responded, "Donald, you're beginning to sound a little ridiculous, I have to tell you."
The Fox Nation post links to a Politico blog post reporting that Trump "took a shot at CNN's low ratings" during the interview.
From Fox Nation:
Journalism veterans and ethics experts are criticizing Fox News' Bret Baier for treating as credible the false claim that President Barack Obama might not have been born in the United States, with one experienced news person calling his recent coverage of the issue "a complete abandonment of integrity and responsibility."
Baier, often viewed as among the more credible news people at Fox News, reported in a news brief Monday night that Arizona Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett threatened to remove Obama's name from the Arizona ballot if Hawaii officials didn't prove to his satisfaction that Obama was born in Hawaii.
Baier stated: "Bennett says he is not, quote 'a birther' but wants to clear up the issue for concerned Arizonans." But Baier failed to "clear up the issue" for Fox's viewers by stating outright that President Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii, as indicated by his birth certificate and a contemporaneous newspaper announcement of his birth.
This marked at least the third time this year that Baier reported on developments in the debunked 'birther' movement without providing this crucial context.
By contrast, Fox News' own Shepard Smith stated in 2011: "Well, he has produced a birth certificate. It shows his mother gave birth to him in Hawaii. It is stamped and sealed by the state of Hawaii. It is confirmed, and Fox News can confirm the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States, period."
In a radio interview Tuesday Bennett stated he had withdrawn the threat and told listeners: "If I embarrassed the state, I apologize." The Arizona Republic reported that a "Hawaii official sent Bennett's office verification of birth for President Obama on Tuesday, according to both Bennett and Hawaii officials."
Baier did not respond to several requests for comment.
Several veteran journalists and media critics criticized Baier for his reporting on the subject.
"Whatever the motivation of Arizona's secretary of state it is a complete abandonment of integrity and responsibility for any news gatherer or disseminator not to ask the questions necessary to put a report on the secretary of state's actions in a context that would allow the reader or viewer of the report to make a decision on how he or she can use the information," said Bill Kovach, co-founder of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and former Washington, D.C. bureau chief of The New York Times. "In this case there is a rich history on the subject that raises deep and serious question about the motivation of anyone questioning President Obama's qualification for holding office including his citizenship and matters surround the time and place of his birth. To ignore this rich history of facts is irresponsible."
Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former executive editor of The Miami Herald, cited Baier's error of omission.
"An error of omission is the more insidious error because it typically escapes being corrected," Fiedler said in an email. "Nothing in his report is inaccurate. The problem lies in Baier's failure to include one additional fact: that, in due regard for the laws of Hawaii, the president has released an official copy of his birth certificate stating as legal fact that his mother gave birth to him in Honolulu. The state of Hawaii accepts this. The U.S. State Department accepts this."
From the May 17 edition of KFTK's The Dana Show:
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Thursday, infamous Maricopa County, AZ sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference to reveal the results of a 6 month-long "investigation" into the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate, which he accused of being fraudulent. The birther pageant was a new low for Arpaio, who – along with his deputies – was recently found by state law enforcement agencies to have failed to investigate hundreds of sex crimes and is currently under federal investigation for alleged "discriminatory practices" that include profiling Latinos.
Phoenix's major local news affiliates approached their coverage of the spectacle in different ways. The CBS affiliate (CBS 5) dedicated over nine minutes Thursday to a series of straight-faced (and apparently ongoing) segments they titled "Investigating the President." Despite the far-out, conspiracy-laden claims made at the birthers' presentation, CBS treated the participants and their assertions in an unduly serious fashion. The network's segment served primarily to amplify the arguments and opinions of Arpaio's "lead investigator" Mike Zullo, who is featured in a softball interview and in lengthy clips from the press conference.
Furthermore, the extremely limited sourcing of counterpoints used by CBS in the segments (anonymous detractors, a year-old Obama quote, and a brief, almost neutral, statement from an AZ congressman) gave the impression that vocal critics of the birth certificate circus were hard to come by -- a scenario that seems improbable at best, given the birther movement's rich history of making false claims.
Watch the CBS report:
In contrast, the Phoenix FOX affiliate (FOX 10) reported on the absurdity of the day with a responsible degree of scrutiny, making the story about the reasonableness of the county sheriff's involvement in the charade. The segment begins with an incredulous anchor throwing to some brief interviews highlighting opposing viewpoints on the issue. It continues with a one-on-one interview with Arpaio and FOX anchor John Hook, in which Hook questions the legal standing, fiscal responsibility and political sanity of the decision to, as Arpaio puts it, take the birthers' investigation "into another atmosphere."
The FOX report:
While CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson attends the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference this week to accept an award from the far-far-right group, Accuracy In Media, perhaps she will have extra time to take in some of the discussions scheduled to take place.
According to the posted agenda, these will be among the CPAC offerings Attkisson could sit in on:
-"How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America"
-"Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department"
-"Obama vs. The Constitution: How a Harvard Law Graduate President Is Shredding the Constitution"
Fascinating topics, no doubt.
Of course, last year CPAC made news when it banned the conservative gay group, GOProud, from being a conference sponsor in 2012. GOProud's inclusion in 2011 prompted angry boycotts from social conservative groups. AIM itself has a long and disturbing history of publishing columns condemning gays and their "sympathizers" as subversive agents of death.
There really is no cockamamie conspiracy AIM hasn't pursued over the years, including its pathetic attempts to promote the "cover-up" surrounding the death of Clinton aide Vince Foster.
Which reminds me, when Attkisson has finished her ten-minute award ceremony remarks for the appreciative CPAC audience, maybe she'll get a chance to ask Cliff Kincaid, director of AIM's Center for Investigative Journalism, about all the reporting he's done on President Obama's birth certificate.
In case Attkisson hasn't had time to read up, here's a sample of Kincaid's penetrating birther analysis:
-"Anybody who has an original copy of their own birth certificate, or a certified copy of their own original birth certificate, should immediately understand that the Obama version is lacking in basic information that should be publicly available."
You get the idea, even if CBS News does not: Sending a straight news reporter to an Obama-bashing conference to receive an award from a proud birther organization is a very, very bad idea, and one that will do needless damage to CBS' reputation.
As Media Matters accurately noted this week, AIM represents a "cesspool of hate and conspiracy theories." That's not hyperbole. That's the documented truth; go read for yourself.
So that's a problem in terms of CBS News maintaining its reputation as an honest news broker. But that's not all. When you add onto that the myriad of loony conspiracy theories that AIM has pushed, the Attkisson decision makes even less sense. And when you top it off with the fact that AIM represented an engine that helped drive the blind idiocy behind the birther charade, then you really have to wonder what CBS News is trying to accomplish this week at CPAC.
According to a network spokesperson, "CBS News journalists are regularly honored by a broad spectrum of organizations for their outstanding original reporting." That makes sense and I'm sure it's true. But at some point common sense ought to come into play.
Here's a simple, hypothetical question for CBS News executives: Eight years ago, would you have allowed a straight news reporter to accept an award from a radical left-wing group that dedicated untold hours trying to document how the Bush administration was behind the 9/11 attacks? And would you have allowed your straight news reporter to receive the award, and to address an appreciative crowd, at a national conclave of Bush-hating nut jobs?
I didn't think so.
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?
On April 27 Fox Business' Eric Bolling hosted Pam Geller on his show Follow The Money. Geller -- who has dabbled in the wildest conspiracy theories involving President Obama's birth (such as the one in which Malcolm X is actually Obama's father) -- questioned the authenticity of Obama's long-form birth certificate.
Not even two days later Geller literally labeled Obama a "bastard."
In an April 29 post on her blog, Atlas Shrugs, Pam Geller said "President Obama is indeed a bastard, literally and figuratively." Geller based her post on the recent release of 1960's immigration records of Obama's father. Fox Nation has also highlighted Obama's father's records in an attempt to attack Obama without, of course, acknowledging that Obama himself addressed his father's shortcomings in his book Dreams from My Father.
From the April 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing media have responded to the release of President Obama's original Hawaii birth certificate by embracing conspiracy theories that the document is fake or has been altered.
I don't think this is a parody:
Many Americans were shocked yesterday when President Obama finally released his long form birth certificate from the State of Hawaii. The real surprise however is that for the past three years our democratic institutions did not address the matter.
The press refused to tackle this issue with the same investigative drive with which they did investigated Watergate, President Clinton's alleged indiscretions and the Bush administration's missteps in Iraq – the courts declined to hear a single case on the issue, and the Congress failed to hold any hearings on the matter.
That's right, Andrew Breitbart's team is mad the press did not "investigate" a non-story in which no facts were in dispute. And now Breitbart's team is lecturing us about how journalism is supposed to work.
From the April 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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WorldNetDaily, which Alex Pareene appropriately dubbed the "biggest, dumbest wingnut site on the Web," has been cashing in on birther nonsense for several years now. If you head to their online "Superstore" you'll find everything you need to advertise your detachment from reality, including "Where's the Birth Certificate?" bumper stickers for your car, signs for your yard, t-shirts, and more.
Their latest - and probably biggest - cash grab is noted liar Jerome Corsi's upcoming book, Where's The Birth Certificate? (Answer: in Hawaii.) Jerome Corsi is a discredited clown who has been embarrassing himself for years over the birther "issue," including going on Fox & Friends before the '08 election and accusing the administration of posting a "fake" certificate online that, according to a "good analysis of it on the internet" had "been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop." He also suggested to G. Gordon Liddy in 2008 that Obama was visiting Hawaii not just to be with his then-dying grandmother, but to also do... something... relating to his birth certificate.
Nevertheless, Corsi's book, published by WND, hit #1 on Amazon's bestseller list this week, thanks in no small part to prominent promotion from Drudge (and a variety of conservative sites like Fox Nation and Glenn Beck's The Blaze).
Continuing Fox News' full embrace of birtherism, WND CEO Joseph Farah will reportedly appear on David Asman's program on the Fox Business Network tonight to "talk birth certificate" and discuss Corsi's upcoming book. This should be a friendly place for Farah to promote Corsi's book, considering Asman's recent assertion that before he declares Obama was born in the U.S., he wants to "see all the evidence."
During an interview on Bill Cunningham's radio show last month, Farah claimed to talk to Fox's lead birther Sean Hannity "every day." Farah also suggested that he had been blacklisted by Fox over birtherism: "I was on Fox regularly before this... the minute we started on this campaign, the minute we started putting billboards up across this country, it stopped."
Looks like the ban has been lifted.
From the New York Times article that appeared on the newspaper's website Thursday morning, came this passage [emphasis added]:
A plurality of Republican voters, 47 percent, said they believed Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was born in another country; 22 percent said they did not know where he was born, and 32 percent said they believed he was born in the United States.
The remarkable poll result was just the latest indication of how the-world-is-flat-type of conspiracy about the president's birth certificate has thoroughly infiltrated the Republican Party and conservative movement in America, to the point where nearly half of Republicans believe the lie. (Take a bow Fox News.) To the point where half of Republicans don't think Obama is eligible to hold office.
But note that there were two peculiar things about how the Times handled the revelation.
First, in the original article, the newspaper completely buried the birther lede. Rather than highlighting the blockbuster poll finding, the Times gave the embarrassing news only a glancing reference and stuck the results deep down in the story, devoting just two sentences to the birther revelation. Sidestepping the thorny issue, the Times instead pegged the news story around the fact that Republican voters aren't enthusiastic about their possible White House candidates. (Hint: That's not exactly breaking news.)
Second, the much-talked about birther passage from the Times' polling piece soon disappeared; it was removed from the original article, without explaination. Readers now clicking on the Times link, which continues to whip around the Internet, aren't informed that a plurality of Republicans believe Obama was born in a foreign country. In fact, readers aren't told anything about those results. (A different article in the Times today makes a passing reference to the poll's findings.)
For some reason yesterday, the Times' birther scoop disappeared.