Sean Hannity's Birther Conversion

After much public spectacle and uncountable hours wasted, the reelection of Barack Obama kindled a small, wonderful hope that maybe we were done talking about birth certificates and presidential eligibility. Unfortunately, that discussion has now engulfed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): U.S. citizen, presumed presidential aspirant, and accidental Canadian. A few fringe actors have questioned whether Cruz is eligible to occupy the White House, and Fox News' Sean Hannity, who countenanced the high-profile conservative/Republican birther crusade to force Obama to release his birth certificate, is outraged.

Cruz was born in Calgary 42 years ago to an American mother and a Cuban father. The Constitution requires that the president be a "natural-born citizen," though it does not define the term and the Supreme Court has never specifically defined it either. But Cruz has been a U.S. citizen since birth and there's no real reason to think he can't run for president should he so choose and hold that office if elected. Being born in Alberta, however, means that Cruz is, or was a some point, also a citizen of Canada. Presumably seeking to nip the eligibility question in the bud, Cruz released his birth certificate on August 18 and announced that he would renounce any formal ties he still retains to our northern neighbor.

Hannity said during his August 19 Fox program that Cruz's actions “put this so-called controversy to rest,” and went on to attack “the left” for “flirting with birtherism,” asking whether it means liberals are “racist against a Hispanic”:

Absent from Hannity's attack on “the left” was any specific example of a high-profile liberal or Democrat who has actually questioned Cruz's eligibility. That differentiates Cruz birtherism from Obama birtherism, which has adherents in the House Republican caucus, was endorsed by Hannity's Fox News colleagues, and became an absurd national spectacle in early 2011 owing to the incessant agitating of fake Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The two strains also differ in that no one doubts Cruz's U.S. citizenship or his place of birth, while the animating principle of Obama birthers is that Obama is lying about where he was born and engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to falsify documents to that effect.

At the time, Sean Hannity didn't really have a problem with the fact that so many prominent people on his side of the ideological spectrum were enthusiastic believers in an insane, sprawling conspiracy theory, and repeatedly stated that the president should release his birth certificate (Obama had done so, three years earlier). In fact, in April 2011, at the height of the birther craze, Hannity sat down with Trump for a softball interview and asked him what his “team of investigators in Hawaii” had come up with regarding Obama's birth certificate. (SPOILER: nothing, because there was nothing to find and the “investigators” very likely didn't exist.)

Have a look at Sean Hannity smiling, nodding, and throwing in helpful comments as Trump runs through a litany of idiotic Obama birth certificate conspiracies:

As a point of fact, the most high-profile person questioning Cruz's citizenship status is none other than Donald Trump, who speculated on ABC News last week that the Texas senator is “perhaps not” eligible for the presidency. “I don't know the circumstances.  I heard somebody told me he was born in Canada,” said Trump, demonstrating his trademark command of the issues. And for what it's worth, people connected to Ted Cruz do think that there is a whisper campaign being waged against Cruz's eligibility, but they lay the blame at the feet of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a potential 2016 GOP primary rival and noted non-member of “the left.”