Birther Movement

Birther Movement

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Updated Mar 18, 2014 at 11:15AM EDT by Brad.  

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The Birther Movement refers to fringe theorists known as “birthers,” who believe that United States President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible for presidency.


According to an article in Politico[2], in the spring of 2008 during the Democratic presidential primary, Hilary Clinton supports began circulating an anonymous email questioning Obama’s United States citizenship (shown below).

“Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth”


On June 12th, 2008, the Chicago Tribune[3] published an article titled “Is Barack Obama a US Citizen? Yes.”, which reported that a new version of the theory argued that since Obama was born in Hawaii with a Kenyan father and 18-year-old mother, he could not be recognized as an automatic citizen based on immigration law. On June 9th, the National Review[4] published a blog post urging Obama to prove his United States citizenship by providing the public a copy of his birth certificate. Several days later, the Obama campaign responded by posting a scanned image of Obama’s birth certificate on the website Fight the Smears[5] (shown below).

On August 21st, former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general Phil Berg filed a complaint in the federal District court, alleging that Obama carried multiple citizenships forfeiting his eligibility to run for President of the United States. On July 28th, 2009, a Wiktionary[1] entry for the term “birther” was added, which defined the noun as "a believer in one of more conspiracy theories, holding that President Barack Obama is not a “natual born” citizen of the United States." On August 4th, Gawker[6] published an article titled “Happy Where’s the Birth Certificate Day, Barack Obama!”, which featured several satirical birth certificate photoshopped images (shown below).

In October of 2009, anonymous emails began circulating that the Associated Press had identified Obama as “Kenyan-born” in June of 2004. An entry titled “Trip Wire” on the rumor-checking website Snopes[7] debunked the claims, proving that the Associated Press never identified Obama as Kenyan-born.

Birth Certificate Rejections

Following the release of Obama’s birth certificate in June of 2008, conspiracy theorists asserted that the document had been photoshopped and that it lacked the Hawaii seal of the state. Author Jerome Corsi asserted on Fox News that the campaign should produce the “original birth certificate,” claiming that the released version was “fake.”

On August 21st, the website Fact Check[8] reported that they had analyzed the document in person, and determined that it was an authentic birth certificate. After continued pressure from political opponents, Obama asked the director of the Hawaii Department of Health for certified copies of his original Certificate of Live Birth on April 22nd, 2011. The following week, White House staffers disseminated copies of the certificate and posted a PDF version on the White House website[9] (shown below).

The certificate had been scanned into a PDF using optical character recognition (OCR), which uses an algorithm to separate characters in an image into their own layer, allowing readers to interact with the raw text in the file. On April 27th, YouTuber joebrooksme uploaded a video titled “President Obama’s Birth Certificate PDF Has ‘Layers’,” with a screen cast of the document opened in photoshop (shown below). The same day, The National Review[11] published a post titled “PDF Layers in Obama’s Birth Certificate,” which explained how OCR technology creates layers in PDF documents.

Donald Trump’s Involvement

While billionaire Donald Trump was attempting to make a bid for the republican nomination for president in March 2011, he began looking into the validity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate[12], stating that the “Certification of Live Birth” the White House released did not bear a signature of authenticity.[13] He also claimed that the release of Obama’s birth certificate was because of his involvement in the process.[14] He continued to question Obama’s birth certificate throughout 2012, tweeting[15] on August 6th, 2012 that the produced certificate was a fraud.

On October 22nd, 2012, Trump asserted he would be making a “very big” revelation about the president within two days.[16] On the 24th, Trump released a video stating he would donate $5 million dollars to the charity of the President’s choice if he provided his college applications and records as well as his passport records by October 31st to the billionaire’s satisfaction. Many news sources including CBS News[17], Business Insider[18] and the Huffington Post[19] claimed the announcement fell flat of his Twitter hype. In response, satirical news host Stephen Colbert made a counter offer to Trump, saying he would donate $1 million to the charity of his choice if he would allow Colbert to “dip his balls his in mouth.”[20] The same night, Obama responded on The Tonight Show[21], joking that his feud with Trump dated back to when they were growing up together in Kenya.

Search Interest

External References

[1]Wiktionary – birther

[2]Politico – Birtherism – Where it all began

[3]Chicago Tribune – Is Barack Obama a US Citizen?

[4]National Review – Obama Could Debunk Some Rumors By Releasing His Birth Certificate

[5]Wayback Machine – Fight the Smears Obama Birth Certificate

[6]Gawker – Happy Where’s the Birth Certificate Day, Barack Obama!

[7]Snopes – Trip Wire

[8]Fact Check – Born in the USA

[9]White House – long form birth certificate

[10]Talking Points Memo – With Drudge Report’s Help, Birthers Latch Onto Phony Forgery Theory

[11]National Review – PDF Layers in Obama’s Birth Certificate

[12]Huffington Post – Donald Trump: Obama Birth Certificate Details Being Sought By Investigators In Hawaii

[13]Newsmax – Trump: New Facts Emerging on Obama Birth Certificate

[14]NY Daily News – Donald Trump: Obama’s birth certificate was released because I put on the pressure

[15]US News – Wolf Blitzer Spars With Donald Trump Over Obama’s Birth Certificate

[16]NY Daily News – Donald Trump teases ‘very big news’ about Obama on Wednesday

[17]CBS News – Donald Trump’s “big” announcement is not so big

[18]Business Insider – Donald Trump Makes His ‘Big’ Announcement -- And It’s A Total Disappointment

[19]Huffington Post – Was Donald Trump’s Announcement A Gigantic, Pointless Waste Of Time Promulgated By A Venal Con Artist?

[20]Huffington Post – Colbert Offers Trump $1M To Dip Balls In His Mouth (VIDEO)

[21]Huffington Post – Barack Obama Laughs Off Feud With Donald Trump On ‘The Tonight Show’

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Top Comments

raven lord
raven lord

Really guys, what’s next? Gunman on the grassy knoll, USS Maine, Warren Harding’s parentage, Grover Cleveland’s love child, or maybe the “Corrupt Bargain” of 1824?

I know this is the silly season of politics, but come on. KYM, you are better than this. Or at least you ought to be. Can we give it a rest until Nov 7?


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