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.
With media figures fixated on false claims that President Obama was not born in the United States, Sean Hannity made perfectly clear where the blame lies: with the "Obama mania media's bias," which "would have you believe that the only thing conservatives talk about is the birth certificate."
An hour later, Greta Van Susteren and Donald Trump talked at length about the birth certificate on Fox News, and Trump concluded that "a lot of Republicans" agree with his birtherism.
Indeed, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 45 percent of Republicans think that Obama was not born in the United States.
And according to that same poll, 45 percent of Republicans cite Fox News as the television network that they turn to for news.
Incidentally, Fox News has fully embraced the latest incarnation of the birther conspiracy theory -- a theory that has long been discredited.
While it is impossible to infer from these polling results whether the Republican respondents who turn to Fox for news are the same Republican respondents who believe that Obama was not born in the United States, a December 2010 University of Maryland study sheds light on the connection between birthers and Fox. That study concluded that Fox News viewers were "significantly more likely" to adopt the false belief that Obama was not born in the United States.
From the April 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
Loading the player reg...
Following Donald Trump's lead, Fox News figures have recently embraced or promoted aspects of the birther conspiracy theory by falsely claiming that President Obama has not produced his birth certificate, or by hosting birthers to hype their discredited theories unchallenged.
This morning on Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy became the latest right-wing media figure to embrace the birther conspiracy theory. While once again providing Donald Trump a platform to peddle his completely debunked claims that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen, Doocy quipped that Obama "could end it simply; just show it [the birth certificate] to us."
Doocy, as I am sure you know, Obama has "show[n]" us the birth certificate, and it is not a question to any sane person that Obama was born in Hawaii. But, of course, neither of Doocy's co-hosts had the guts to mention that to their viewers.
Doocy marks at least the third Fox News host who has recently embraced with a wink and a nod the debunked fringe conspiracy that Obama was born outside of the U.S. As Media Matters has noted, Sean Hannity recently spent a week on his show questioning Obama's birth certificate. Bill O'Reilly -- who initially mocked birther conspiracy theories -- came out last week to complain of being "bor[ed]" with the birth certificate issue, telling Obama to release his birth certificate and "put this whole thing to bed." Fox News has repeatedly, repeatedly hosted Trump to tout his newly embraced birther conspiracy, which has reportedly been carefully taught to him by WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah, who has been obsessed with all matter of Obama related conspiracy theories.
From the April 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Sean Hannity went to the mat Friday night in an effort to mainstream birtherism and other fringe theories about President Obama.
After helping to trumpet Donald Trump's birther claims and the suggestion that Obama is a secret Muslim, Hannity aired a graphic promoting Trump's 2012 presidential aspirations:
Writing in the Wall Street Journal's conservative opinion pages today, former Bush administration official Peter Wehner warns Republicans that embracing the Donald Trump-led birtherism that's currently sweeping conservative media will lead to "substantial damage both to their party and to American politics."
From the WSJ [emphasis added]:
By focusing on Mr. Obama's birth certificate, Mr. Trump has garnered a lot of attention and some support. According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, among Republicans he is now tied with Mike Huckabee as the most popular prospective GOP presidential nominee. If responsible Republicans don't speak out immediately against Mr. Trump's gambit, it will do substantial damage both to their party and to American politics.
When prominent figures in a party play footsie with peddlers of paranoia, the party suffers an erosion of credibility. While certain corners of a party's base might be energized by conspiracy theories, the majority of the electorate will be turned off by them. People are generally uneasy about political institutions that give a home to cranks.
There's more than a partisan cost to all this. Mr. Trump is succumbing to a pernicious temptation in American politics: not simply to disagree with political opponents, but to try to delegitimize them. The argument isn't simply that Mr. Obama is wrong on almost every public policy matter (which I believe he is). Rather, the argument is that his presidency is unconstitutional and that he is alien.
One of the many mysteries surrounding the zombie-like resurrection of the thoroughly debunked Obama birth certificate story and its renaissance within right-wing media, and especially Fox News is, "Why now?" Other than Donald Trump's decision to wallow in the shallow conspiracy, what has triggered the sudden interest and the sudden charade that the birther story is legitimate?
The questions mount when you look back and realize that during the 2008 campaign, when the birther story was first peddled and, one could argue, was more relevant as a national campaign played out, Fox News essentially ignored the story. As Obama was running for the White House and questions from the far right were raised about Obama's eligibility and his birthplace, Fox News (wisely) turned a blind eye to the story. Then, in 2009, in the wake of Obama's landslide electoral win, when Fox News personalities did address the birther issue it was usually to belittle the story and mock it as a foolish conspiracy theory.
That's right. In 2008 and 2009, Fox News basically couldn't be bothered with the birther story. Fast-forward to 2011, though, and the Fox team can't stop talking about it.
Why? In terms of actual birther "news," there is none today. And of course there hasn't been any "news" in three years, because nobody on the right-wing fringe has been able to advance the so-called story. Not one inch.
When people find themselves tangled in knots, sometimes there's no telling how illogical the outcome will be.
A perfect example is watching the conservative movement deal with the zombie-like resurgence of the thoroughly debunked birther story that was of minor interest three years ago. Conservatives, especially those in the Obama-hating right-wing media, have been cheering this spring's Return Of Birther production, courtesy mostly of Donald Trump, who has used the discredited conspiracy theory to vault to the head of the GOP line among Republican voters searching for next year's nominee.
Large chunks of the far-right press, led of course by Fox News's trademark irresponsibility, have been deliriously happy to watch Trump's birther show take flight for the very simple reason that they hate Obama with a white-hot intensity, and they think the birther talk hurts him politically. (There's no evidence it does.)
On the flip side, there are some conservatives who realize the birther talk simply cements the perception of Republicans as being beyond the mainstream of American politics. And yes, that's the position Andrew Breitbart himself took in 2009, when he called the birther obsession "narcissistic" and un-provable.
But here's where the tortured, pretzel twisting comes into play today. Instead of taking the obvious course and condemning birthers, what do Breitbart bloggers do?
Surprise! They blame the (liberal) media [emphasis added]:
From the April 8 edition of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor:
Loading the player reg...
With birther conspiracy theory claims about President Obama again being hyped by the right-wing media, Media Matters looks at the myths and falsehoods surrounding Obama's birth certificate.