Severin cites “fiction[al]” Indonesian movie to bolster birther, madrassa claims

Radio host Jay Severin distorted an Indonesian film about President Obama's childhood to bring up a couple of long-since debunked myths about Obama.

On his radio show on WTKK in Boston, Severin invoked both the madrassa and the birther myths -- a pair of ridiculous falsehoods that have been thoroughly discredited.

From the June 30 edition of WTKK's The Jay Severin Show:

SEVERIN: The biography film of Barack Obama being shown in Indonesia has scenes of the young Barack Hussein Obama in a madrassa reading a Quran. Yes, of course it does. It is, after all, a biography. And a biography, a correct biography, an accurate biography, of the president of the United States, who has never produced a birth certificate, and about whose birth there are perfectly legitimate questions -- not conclusions, but perfectly legitimate questions -- his biography, the film of him as a young man, has scenes of him reading the Quran in a madrassa. Surprised? We oughtn't be.

There's a lot to unpack there. First, as a boy in Indonesia, Obama did not attend a madrassa. That myth started with an article in the now-defunct Insight magazine, which reported on speculation that the “the specific Madrassa Mr. Obama attended” might have taught “a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims.” The story was quickly debunked by CNN and later by the Associated Press and ABC. But the madrassa smear nonetheless created a buzz in the conservative media, which used it to all but label Obama a Manchurian candidate.

Next, the birther falsehood. Severin's claim that Obama “has never produced a birth certificate” is preposterously false. In fact, the Hawaii Department of Health confirmed that the birth certificate posted online by the Obama campaign is “a valid Hawaii state birth certificate” and has called speculation about Obama's citizenship “pretty ridiculous.” Further, announcements of Obama's birth appeared in two different Honolulu newspapers when he was born in 1961.

Severin's statements about the film, Obama Anak Menteng, are contradicted by the film's director and screenwriter, Damien Dematra. Severin suggests the film is “a correct biography, an accurate biography,” but in an interview with Time magazine, Dematra stated that the film is “around 60 percent facts and 40 percent fiction.” He wasn't trying to make an “accurate biography.” Dematra added that a scene of Obama praying toward Mecca was omitted from the movie because people “were trying to use it as a political weapon against the president” and “taking [the] scene out of context.”

During the segment, Severin also stated that in light of recent events, “the birthers look less ridiculous.” After his radio show today, the same can't be said of Jay Severin.