About-Face: Conservative Media Start Downplaying Their Birther Credentials

In the wake of President Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate, which further debunks the claims of those who have been saying Obama was not born in Hawaii, some in the conservative media are now trying to pretend they never questioned Obama's citizenship in the first place.

Right-Wing Media Distance Themselves From Birther Conspiracies They Promoted

Limbaugh Now Claims: “I Warned People This Is A Dead End.” Citing emails he had received from listeners telling him “not to be fooled by the White House” following the release of Obama's long-form birth certificate, Limbaugh stated that birther conspiracies are “fun” but that he is “not going to be distracted” by the claims. He said:

LIMBAUGH: It's fun. I make no apology or excuse for enjoying the show this morning that this was. Yeah, while we're gonna have our fun with it, we are not going to be distracted. Because as I have warned, I -- you know, you ought to replay sound bite 2. When we come back from the break, I will, 'cause back on April 7th, I warned people this is a dead end -- dead-end street to start driving down or walking down. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/28/11]

Hannity: “This Was Never A Defining Issue For Me, But I Found It Odd.” Discussing Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate on the April 27 edition of his show, Sean Hannity tried to downplay his role in promoting the birther myth, saying: “We've got this big issue involving the birth certificate and I was never -- this was never a defining issue for me, but I found it odd. All the president had to do was what he did today: release it, move on, and we're out of the way.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/27/11]

Fox News Tries To Distance Itself From Its Promotion Of Birther Conspiracy. Fox News' website Fox Nation pointed to a recent study by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism in trying to downplay Fox News' role in promoting the birther conspiracy. The post republished part of the study finding that, among the three cable networks, Fox devoted the “least” amount of coverage to the birther claims and boasted of Fox's apparent low amount of coverage to the birther issue during the week of April 11-17. But while the study included Fox evening shows Special Report, The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity, it did not include other Fox News opinion shows that also contributed air time to the controversy, including Fox & Friends and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. The study also did not examine Fox Nation itself. [Fox Nation, 4/28/11]

  • NewsBusters Also Highlighted Pew Research To Absolve Fox Of Pushing Birther Conspiracy. NewsBusters' Lachlan Markey wrote: “Unfortunately, simply by giving a megaphone to Donald Trump -- the personality who undergirded much of the birther coverage of late -- news networks implicitly gave voice to the conspiracy theory. Simply ignoring the theory is generally the best way to combat it, and Fox led the field in that regard (on cable news, anyway).” [NewsBusters, 4/29/11]

In Fact, Limbaugh And Fox News Have Repeatedly Promoted The Birther Myth

Limbaugh Has Constantly Stoked The Flames Of The Birther Movement. While Limbaugh is now stressing his prior statement that the issue was a “dead end,” Limbaugh has consistently engaged in promoting the birther myth:

  • Limbaugh made the false claim that Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie “can't find” Obama's birth certificate. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/4/11]
  • Limbaugh also recently said, “We've got somebody about whom there are legitimate citizenship questions here, serving as president.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/11/11]
  • Limbaugh said to a birther that he “would love nothing more than for this guy to be proven a fraud,” adding, “that would be fun.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/7/11]
  • Limbaugh speculated that, in October 2008, when Obama made a quick trip to Hawaii to visit his ailing grandmother, he might actually be there to deal with “this birth certificate business.” Obama's grandmother subsequently passed away two days before the election. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/23/08]
  • Limbaugh has also attacked the press for not asking Obama “why won't you show the birth certificate.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/26/11]
  • Limbaugh has repeatedly touted Donald Trump's birther theories. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/28/11]

Hannity Spent Weeks Demanding Obama Release Long-Form Birth Certificate. Despite his claim that the birther myth “was never a defining issue for me,” Hannity repeatedly used his show to demand that Obama release his long-form birth certificate (all the while maintaining that it wasn't his “main issue” and professing a desire to “move on”):

  • On March 24, Hannity asked: “What's the deal? Produce the birth certificate, it's over, done with.” During the segment, he also said that Obama “did talk in his book about how he went and prayers and he went to a Muslim school, and he did talk about all this. And he studied the Quran, and prayers at sunset were some of the most beautiful things he saw in life. So he spent a lot of years of his youth in Indonesia ... And show the birth certificate.” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/24/11]
  • On March 23, Hannity asked, “What do you think about this birth certificate issue? I mean, it has not been my main issue, but it kind of does get a little odd here after a while. Can't they just produce it and we move on?” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/23/11]
  • On March 25, Hannity stated, “Donald Trump brought up the issue of the birth certificate, and it's getting huge buzz around the country,” and later asked, “Why can't they just release the birth certificate, you know, and just move on?” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/25/11]
  • Later on the March 25 show, Hannity stated: “Do I think he was [born in America]? Yes. Do I think this is odd that they won't produce the birth certificate? It's beginning to get odd to me.” Hannity later stated that it's “not true” that Obama has shown his birth certificate. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/25/11]
  • On April 5, Hannity said that Obama was born in the United States but demanded that he “show the stupid birth certificate and move on.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/5/11]

Fox Promotes Birther Myth In At Least 52 Segments. A Media Matters review of Fox News' opinion programs found that over a recent two-month period, the network devoted nearly two hours and 20 minutes to the birther issue, and in the vast majority of the cases, the hosts either espoused birther conspiracies or did not challenge or correct false claims about Obama's birth that aired on their shows. [Media Matters, 4/27/11]

Fox Nation Has Repeatedly Hyped Trump's Birtherism. Fox Nation repeatedly promoted Donald Trump's birther claims, including Trump's claim he had investigators in Hawaii who could not believe what they were finding and his claim that Obama may be a Muslim. [Media Matters, 4/7/11]

Other Fox News Figures Embraced Aspects Of Birther Conspiracy. Aside from Hannity, following Donald Trump's lead, other Fox News figures -- including Sarah Palin, Steve Doocy, Bill O'Reilly, Dick Morris, and Monica Crowley -- have embraced or promoted aspects of the birther conspiracy theory by falsely claiming that Obama has not produced his birth certificate, by hosting birthers to hype their discredited theories unchallenged, and/or by calling on Obama to release the long-form birth certificate. [Media Matters, 4/20/11]