Birther is the term used to designate a wingnut conspiracist who believes that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States as his Hawaiian birth certificate indicates, and was therefore ineligible to be President of the United States under the U.S. Constitution. The mini-movement drew its strength validating the feeling among conservatives that Barack Obama was a usurper. As such it is a way to deal with the emotional pain of having lost the 2008 presidential election and thus failing to achieve conservative policy goals. Birthers were, unsurprisingly, uninterested in John McCain's birth in the Panama Canal Zone, a non-territory which was never sovereign U.S. territory under the 1903 Treaty that established U.S. control.
Birther conspiracism gained a surprising level of legitimacy before sanity returned. CNN's one time In House Xenophobe, Lou Dobbs, was willing to exploit the issue. Although Dobbs usually prefered to fulminate about the existence of Mexico and Mexicans, in middle of 2009 he decided to exploit birtherism with a "reinvestigation of the fable." To dimiss Dobbs' pandering to the wingnuts as just a bid for viewership is to overlook how much damage he did to CNN's reputation as a news source. By early May 2010, CNN was backtraking. Anderson Cooper interrogated birther U.S. Army doctor Terry Lakin, or rather his lawyer, about his beliefs. "Just false" is how Cooper characterized the charge.
The stench of this conspiracy theory is so great that Republican House underboss Eric Cantor blamed the "liberal media" for the controversy. Still, the craziness in the air during 2009 town hall meetings led Arizona Republican Representative Trent Franks to threaten a lawsuit to require President Obama to release his birth cirtificate.
Willing to say anything to hold the attention of conservatives, on December 3, 2009 Sarah Palin responded to a question from rightwing radio host Rusty Humphries about the birther issue with the following: "I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don't have a problem with that. I don't know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers."
On December 18, 2009,Politifact awarded Orly Taitz the second runner-up prize for the 2009 Lie of the Year. Sarah Palin won the first prize for her Death Panel Lie.
On December 23, 2010, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie said the following of the birthers: "It’s an insult to his mother and to his father, and I knew his mother and father — they were my friends, and I have an emotional interest in that. It’s an emotional insult, it is disrespectful to the president, it is disrespectful to the office." Source Sheryl Gay Stolberg. "Hawaii’s Governor Takes On ‘Birthers’ ." The New York Times. December 24, 2010.
Republicans find the idea irresistible. Survey results released by Public Policy Polling (PPP) on February 15, 2011 show that 51% of likely Republican presidential party primary voters credit the conspiracy theory. Are such people intellectually equipped to select a major party presidential nominee? Donald Trump appears willing to be their candidate, suggesting during an appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor" that Obama was concealing his designation as Muslim on his birth certificate. Alas for Trump, Hawaiian birth certificates do not indicate religion.
Birther leaders and othersEdit
- Robert Cooper Missouri State Representative
- Gary Kreep
- Bill Posey U.S. Representative
- Orly Taitz Orly Taitz
- Bob Vander Plaats Iowa conservative activist
- Harry Accornero New Hampshire state representative (Republican)
- Susan DeLemus New Hampshire state representative (Republican)