After the White House released a picture of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David, conservative bloggers were quick to claim that the photo had been altered or created with Adobe Photoshop or a similar graphics editing program. This follows a long, bizarre tradition of conservative media labeling a wide range of pictures and documents related to the president as fraudulent.
In the past few years, conservatives have accused President Obama and his staff of Photoshopping the short and long-form versions of the president's birth certificate, two separate photos of the president with his family, two Situation Room photos from the day of the bin Laden raid, a photo of Obama throwing a football, and now a photo of the president shooting skeet.
During an interview last month with The New Republic, President Obama was asked if he has ever fired a gun. After the president told the magazine that he goes skeet shooting with guests at Camp David, conservatives -- as well as reporters from more mainstream outlets -- sought proof. In order to quiet the skeptics, on Saturday the White House released a photo of the president shooting clay targets at Camp David in 2012:
Linking to the picture on Twitter, White House senior adviser David Plouffe joked, "let the photoshop conspiracies begin!" While Plouffe was mocking the penchant of some conservatives to turn everything related to President Obama into a conspiracy, some conservative outlets quickly proved his point by doing just that (New York Magazine has produced a comprehensive roundup of the skeet shooting conspiracies).
In an article posted Sunday at conservative website American Thinker -- an outlet frequently touted and cited by Rush Limbaugh -- titled "Seven Reasons Why it's a Photoshop," blogger Michael Harlin concluded, "if he's shooting skeet, then I'm Daffy Duck." (While the headline calls it a Photoshop, Harlin seems to waver on whether the picture was manipulated or merely "staged like everything else in President Obama's life.")
To give you some idea of the level of analysis in the piece, among Harlin's evidence that something is off about the Obama picture is his observation that unlike Obama, "most shooters wear baseball style caps" to help "block unwanted sun in your eyes."
Obama is wearing sunglasses (or tinted protective eyewear) in the photo.
It's easy to point and laugh at analyses like these, but conservatives' obsession with these Photoshop conspiracies shows the type of paranoid nonsense that has passed for journalism at many prominent conservative outlets during the Obama era.
In this report we examine right-wing claims that the president's allies have altered:
With Sen. John Kerry's confirmation hearing as secretary of state scheduled for January 24, media reports will likely invoke the coordinated 2004 campaign to "Swift Boat" Kerry. While the smears from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) have long-since fallen apart under scrutiny, Jerome Corsi, one of the masterminds behind the campaign, is revisiting his old attacks.
A look at Corsi's "reporting" during the 2008 campaign and Obama's presidency confirms what quickly became clear during his efforts to hamstring Kerry's presidential run: he has utterly no credibility and his alleged reporting should not be taken seriously by media outlets.
Prior to the 2004 election, with the backing of major Republican donors, Vietnam veteran John O'Neill co-founded SBVT in an attempt to derail Kerry's presidential bid by casting doubt on his military service. The group launched a series of dishonest ads in August of that year, accompanied by Unfit for Command, a book co-authored by O'Neill and Corsi. In its review of Unfit for Command in October 2004, The New York Times explained that while the book was filled with "discredited," "faulty" and "totally unconvincing" claims, if Kerry's presidential bid were to fail, the tome would "go down as a chief reason."
When the book was released, co-author Corsi was practically unknown in political circles. He was a regular poster at conservative message board Free Republic and worked at a financial marketing group. After Media Matters highlighted a series of offensive comments he had made at Free Republic -- including calling Muslims "ragheads" and "boy buggers" and labeling Hillary Clinton a "fat hog" -- Unfit for Command co-author John O'Neill repeatedly tried to distance himself from Corsi to tamp down the controversy. While O'Neill tried to claim Corsi merely helped edit Unfit for Command, Corsi was listed as co-author on the book jacket and promotional materials for the book touted his involvement in co-writing it.
Shortly before the 2004 election, Corsi was hired by conservative publication WorldNetDaily, which has served as his main outlet. During the 2008 campaign and Obama's presidency, Corsi has used his WND platform to promote a staggering number of outlandish conspiracies about the president, including that Obama has a fake birth certificate and stolen Social Security number; that Obama is both secretly gay and secretly Muslim; and that Obama and his family have lied about the true identity of his father, who may be either communist writer Frank Marshall Davis or "some Indonesian."
In this report:
- "Where's The Birth Certificate?": Corsi Is Leading Birther Conspiracy Theorist
- "Where's The Real Birth Certificate?": Corsi Led Charge To Declare Obama's Long-Form Fake
- "I've Always Thought The Father Was Indonesian": Corsi's Quest To Find Obama's "Real" Father
- Corsi: Obama Is Possibly Gay, Definitely A Muslim
- A Superhighway To The Education Camps
Conservative conspiracy theorists have been obsessed with exposing what they see as a series of nefarious secrets hidden in President Obama's past. The idea that Obama has been hiding something has driven years of birth certificate conspiracies, and, most recently, Donald Trump making a very public fool of himself yesterday with his announcement that he was holding a charity donation ransom in exchange for Obama's college transcripts.
One of the more bizarre forms conservatives' sleuthing has taken is their ongoing quest to find Obama's "real" father. According to conservatives, alleged inconsistencies in Obama's biography prove that the elder Barack Obama is not the president's true father (they concede that Obama's mother was in fact Stanley Ann Dunham). Depending on whom you ask, Obama's "real" father could be Malcolm X, "some Indonesian," Frank Marshall Davis, or an unidentified "American black."
While all of these claims are outlandish and discrediting, their originators have nonetheless wielded outsized influence in the right-wing media and conservative movement at large.
"Another Doctored Image Deepens Obama Mystery," is today's top headline at WorldNetDaily, online home for the birther remnant. According to inexplicable Harvard graduate Jerome Corsi, the president's mother, Ann Dunham, was Photoshopped into this image from President Obama's Facebook page to mask the true presence of scary black person du-jour Frank Marshall Davis.
The "evidence" is, as you'd imagine, hilarious. "The black hand under Obama's right armpit doesn't match Ann Dunham's right arm... The hand appears to be a remnant from a black male before it was airbrushed." Black, shadowed, same difference, right? "Ann Dunham looks to be about 25 years old, too young for this 1973 photo. Maya, who was born Aug 15, 1970, looks to be about 3 years old. Ann should look 30 years old." Were Ann Dunham still alive, she might be inclined to take this as a compliment.
But we haven't reached the kicker yet. Let's stipulate, just for a moment, that the shadowed hand really does belong to a black person and was mistakenly left in by the oafish airbrusher; how do we know that hand belongs to Frank Marshall Davis, and not some other less frightening black person?
ADVANCED PHOTO ANALYSIS, THAT'S HOW!
On Thursday, WorldNetDaily correspondent and leading birther conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi appeared on 9/11 truther Alex Jones' radio show to engage in yet another round of paranoid ranting disconnected from reality.
Corsi appeared with Jones via Skype from Hawaii, where he is supposedly working with the "cold case posse" organized by Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio to investigate Barack Obama's birth certificate. If you thought Corsi's book, Where's The Birth Certificate, which was published a few weeks after Obama released his long-form birth certificate, was the end of the story -- you would be very wrong.
Declaring that he "has had enough" of "national news programs" that mislead American voters, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said he will now aim to tell viewers "every time I see craziness in the national media during the campaign." However, the examples of "craziness" O'Reilly cited, including the myth that "Obama was not born in America," have all been promoted on Fox News -- something he did not mention.
During a discussion on Fox News' The Five last week, Eric Bolling bristled at co-host Bob Beckel invoking the tea party's obsession with Obama's birth certificate. According to Bolling, birtherism was "ages ago," and is now "water under the bridge." It certainly behooves Bolling to relegate the birth certificate frenzy to "water under the bridge," considering buffoons like him irreparably damaged their (already minimal) credibility by repeatedly hyping that ridiculous conspiracy theory.
In fact, the last we left Bolling and the birther issue, he and Pam Geller were analyzing a poster-sized version of Obama's long-form birth certificate on Bolling's Fox Business program. At the time, Bolling announced the long-form birth certificate released by the White House "may or may not be" Photoshopped, and added that "there are at least questions." (Among the "questions" Bolling had was how the doctor that delivered Obama hadn't told his family that he had delivered the president, despite the fact the doctor died five years before Obama was elected.)
Either way, good to hear Bolling has found the answers to his questions and the birther issue is now "water under the bridge" for him. However, there's a group for which the birth certificate issue is not "ages ago," but is actually on the verge of finally breaking through and taking down Obama for good.
WorldNetDaily still regularly publishes articles about Obama's birth certificate, and their online "superstore" is still packed with various birther wares. Last week, WND reporter Jerome Corsi, author of Where's the Birth Certificate? and perhaps the single strongest driving force of the birth certificate conspiracy, was invited to Arizona by a tea party group to give a presentation about the birth certificate.
After spending an hour running through his various pieces of evidence that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery and rehashing his conspiracy that birther opportunist Donald Trump was secretly working for Obama, Corsi was asked an important question about whether it concerns him that Obama looks "a lot like Malcolm X." Corsi responded that "there's no proof that he is Malcolm X's son," and he "always thought the father was Indonesian," because Obama's "characteristics are more Indonesian."
It never ends.
In a new article filed last night at WorldNetDaily, reporter Bob Unruh explains that Donald Trump "reached out to WND senior reporter Jerome Corsi, author of 'Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case That Barack Obama is Not Eligible to be President,' with a long list of questions about where the issue is, and where it seems to be going."
Corsi discussed the supposed phone conversation during an extended interview on Alex Jones' radio show yesterday (audio below). Though Sean Hannity (by canceling a scheduled radio interview), and Fox Business Network (by grilling Corsi and calling his theories "debunked"), have seemingly distanced themselves from Corsi, Jones represents the ideal audience for Corsi's increasingly-deranged conspiracies about the birth certificate.
As we've documented, Jones is perhaps the most prominent conspiracy theorist in the country, and describes himself as the founding father of the 9-11 "inside job" movement.
According to the write-up of the interview at Jones' website, Corsi alleged that Trump was "working with Obama" on the birth certificate issue and that Trump's incessant promotion of the issue was "subterfuge":
Appearing on the Alex Jones Show, Corsi said that he now completely discounted the apparent efforts of Donald Trump to force the release of Obama's birth certificate, stating, "I'm completely convinced at this point Donald Trump was subterfuge, that he.... was working with Obama."
Corsi explained how he was contacted directly by Trump, because Trump wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes, and that he requested several copies of Corsi's book before it was released.
Trump's role according to Corsi was to "beat the drums big" and craft a false resolution to the controversy in order to make the press "go to sleep" and get his $60 million dollar television contract with NBC, owned by General Electric, which is closely allied with the Obama administration.
In their article, WND explains that Corsi afforded Trump the opportunity to shake off allegations that he was working with Obama by recommitting himself to hyping the issue. Corsi also indicates that he was regularly in touch with Trump while the latter was making the media rounds and peddling the conspiracy theory:
"I told him he needs to publicly say that the document in the vault, the original long-form birth certificate, needs to be exposed and examined independently," Corsi said. "The doctor's records, the Kapiolani records of Ann Dunham to corroborate she was in that hospital."
"I told him if you don't press these issues you can't be surprised if there are those who think you're working with Barack Obama [on the dispute]," Corsi added.
During much of April Trump made regular appearances on talk shows and news broadcasts, and almost every time either he or the interviewer raised questions about Obama's eligibility. At the same time, he regularly was in conversation with Corsi and others who helped Corsi investigate the Obama eligibility dispute about the evidence that exists.
Enumerating the various evidence Corsi offered on Jones' show to prove that the long-form was "clearly forged," Jones' website lists "an obvious misspelling on the stamp and a 'smiley face' that appears in the signature of the doctor once the document is blown up to 800 per cent."
Things aren't going so well for the birthers.
Jerome Corsi's latest book, Where's the Birth Certificate? -- published shortly after Obama released the titular long-form document -- has been greeted by a chorus of ridicule. (You know it's a bad sign when Fox Business thinks your theories have been "debunked.")
Unsurprisingly, the birther faithful are undeterred. Corsi and WorldNetDaily -- when they haven't been pushing the nonsense "natural-born citizen" argument -- have been desperately trying to prove that Obama's long-form is a "forgery." They've posted numerous articles on the issue, including blockbuster revelations about smudged stamp ink.
WND has front-paged a video that purports to prove that Obama's long-form is a fake. (This video has also been promoted on the website of conspiracy theory radio host Alex Jones.) In their sub-headline, WND proclaims that a "simple examination of lettering leaves little doubt Barack's long-form fraudulent." At this point, it's useless to respond to these allegations individually (anyone still devoted to birtherism is essentially beyond reason), but you can judge the startling kerning revelations for yourself here.
On the other hand, it's worth looking at the types of outlets that are still committed to the birth certificate "issue," and what birtherism adherents like WND have been reduced to.
In this instance, our kerning detective(s), "PP Simmons," have a somewhat popular YouTube channel, which houses a variety of conspiratorial (often end-times focused) videos.
According to their Twitter page, "PPSIMMONS is an online ministry which began on YOUTUBE Oct 10/2008. Since then the channel has EXPLODED to millions of views and thousands of subscribers."
In one video, titled, "WHO IS PPSIMMONS? (Some Suprises [sic])" the narrator, a pastor named Carl Gallups (the same narrator from the birth certificate video), explains that "PP Simmons" is a pseudonym for the channel. Gallups says that the "brainchild for PP Simmons is a highly successful and respected businessman in Birmingham, Alabama -- and also another man who is a youth minister in the gulf coast area." Gallups says they both wish to remain anonymous.
After explaining that he is not personally "PP Simmons," Gallups endeavors to clear up another source of confusion. Namely, that their YouTube channel has never definitively proclaimed that Obama is the Antichrist, "only that he exhibits certain Antichrist qualities and characteristics. But, other world leaders have, as well." Good to know.
From the May 18 edition of Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard:
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Yesterday marked the release of WorldNetDaily writer Jerome Corsi's latest book, Where's the Birth Certificate? A few short weeks ago, the book rode a wave of publicity from unscrupulous conservative websites like the Drudge Report and Fox Nation to #1 on the Amazon bestseller list. Led by Fox News, right-wing media outlets were embracing the birther canard at an ever-increasing pace.
Then it all fell apart.
In the intervening weeks, the birther "issue" has very publicly - and quite embarrassingly for prominent birthers like Corsi and former pretend presidential candidate Donald Trump - collapsed. Obama released his long-form birth certificate on April 27, demolishing the supposed impetus for Corsi's book and rendering it an amusing cultural artifact. In its published form, the book provides a glimpse into the fevered imaginations of some of the most prominent conspiracy theorists of the Obama era.
Corsi announces in his preface that he was writing the book "in the conviction that Obama has usurped the office of the presidency by waging a skillful public relations campaign to suppress his actual birth circumstances." Unfortunately for Corsi, that "conviction" turned out to be utterly, laughably false.
So, first things first: Where's The Birth Certificate?, Corsi asks in his book title. In the Foreword, WND CEO Joseph Farah repeats the question, saying that it has "dogged Obama throughout his term of office" and "may well cost him any chance for re-election in 2012."
Well, here it is:
The host of a self-described "pro-white" radio program has claimed that he helped WorldNetDaily reporter Jerome Corsi with a story related to Corsi's new book, Where's the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President.
James Edwards writes today that Corsi "personally e-mailed me a few months ago for some assistance on a story closely related to the contents of this book. I was happy to oblige and work behind-the-scenes with both Dr. Corsi and World Net Daily on this matter."
Edwards is the host of the "pro-white" radio program The Political Cesspool. The show's website states: "We represent a philosophy that is pro-White ... We wish to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races." The show regularly features a guest roster of "pro-white" figures like David Duke and "neo-Nazi activist April Gaede."
Corsi is familiar with Edwards and his program. Corsi appeared on the July 20, 2008, edition of Edwards' radio show. He was also scheduled to appear again on August 17, 2008, but canceled following criticism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center writes that Edwards "has probably done more than any of his contemporaries on the American radical right to publicly promote neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, raging anti-Semites and other extremists." Indeed, after promoting Corsi's book, Edwards transitions to promoting the pro-segregation book White Identity by Jared Taylor. The ADL notes that Taylor "founded The New Century Foundation, a self-styled think tank known primarily for American Renaissance, a white supremacist journal and companion Website."
Edwards' website features countless posts bashing minority groups. Recent posts include headlines such as "When are white folks gonna listen??? DIVERSITY + CRAIGSLIST = DEATH," "Black man fathers 23 children with 14 different women," and "Blacks go wild at the Washington DC Zoo."
WND's attempts to discredit Obama's long form birth certificate -- in the desperate hope that it will make Jerome Corsi's upcoming book, Where's the Birth Certificate?, somehow relevant -- have crossed the line from pathetic to hilarious.
Earlier this week, WND CEO Joseph Farah announced that he is persuaded that "the birth certificate released by Barack Obama's White House is fake, phony, a fraudulent forgery." Yesterday, he wrote: "It's about to get much worse for Obama. We are just days away from several more shoes dropping." He added that "we may be witnessing the final days of the Barack Obama regime."
If the most recent report by Corsi is any indication, Obama probably doesn't need to pack up his desk any time soon.
Last night, Corsi published an article about how the supposed "growing list of apparent anomalies" in Obama's long-form certificate "continues to fuel suspicion that the document is a crude, computer-generated forgery."
The latest "anomaly" is a supposed "typographical error" used in the Hawaii Department of Health stamp on Obama's long-form. Take us away, Jerome [note: some of WND's images have been resized to fit Media Matters' site -- originals here]:
WorldNetDaily continues to set the stage for the release of Jerome Corsi's sure-to-be comedy classic, Where's the Birth Certificate?, with a series of articles desperately trying to cast doubt on Obama's citizenship. Today's offering from Aaron Klein, posted with the headline "Bombshell: U.S. government questioned Obama citizenship," alleges that the "U.S. government is on record questioning President Obama's citizenship status as early as when he was 5 years old, stating it lacked documentation to determine his citizenship."
Both the headline and the lead paragraph, however, are wildly misleading -- as Klein later notes (buried at the end of the article) the U.S. government also answered these questions "on record" by definitively stating that Obama "is a United States citizen by virtue of his birth in Honolulu, Hawaii, Aug. 4, 1961." Bombshell!
Surprise! Ten days after President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah declared last night that his crackpot website will "be presenting what I believe is compelling new evidence that Obama is not only ineligible to be president, but that the document released by the White House is fraudulent." Oh, good. This should prove to be a scholarly exercise.
WND literally cannot accept that Obama was definitively born in the U.S. and is eligible to be president for a simple reason: money. They've built much of their Obama-era business model around questioning Obama's birth certificate and eligibility. (You can still prove to your neighbors you are incapable of critical thinking with your very own "Where's the Birth Certificate?" lawn sign, t-shirt, or bumper sticker.)
Jerome Corsi's WND-published new book, Where's the Birth Certificate?, is set for release next week. Obama releasing his long-form a few short weeks before the book's release put WND in a somewhat awkward position, but they are undeterred. In an attempt to make the release of this book less outwardly hilarious -- and in lieu of adding the subtitle "Oh, There It Is" -- the crew at WND is going all in and declaring that Obama's long-form is a forgery.
Farah's latest column, headlined "The birth certificate debate -- it's not over," essentially gives the Cliff's Notes version of Corsi's two latest stories. Farah concludes that the supposed birther cover-up "could make Watergate pale by comparison."
According to Farah, the pencil marks on Obama's long-form birth certificate are "the very same tell-tale scribblings found in a clearly fraudulent document posted on the Internet about a year ago -- a document that alleged he was born in Kenya." This proves... something? Even Farah's not entirely sure, but he is asking for "some viable explanation other than the two documents were created by the same forger." That must be it, Joseph.
It would be tedious and probably pointless to assess their latest "evidence" in detail, but just to get an idea of how far past the bottom of the barrel the birthers have now scraped, here's a small sample: