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Questions about Obama birthplace won’t die

Associated Press | 8/12/2009, 7:03 a.m.


America has long been prone to wild conspiracy theories — some dealing with the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination or the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, for example. But the birther rumors have spread like wildfire in an age of 24-hour cable television news, blogs and talk radio.

That has meant that at a time when the White House is pushing to overhaul the nation’s health care system and fight high unemployment, it also has to contend with questions about whether Obama is a “natural-born” American, as the Constitution requires for anyone who would be president.

No serious investigation has produced doubt that Obama was born in the state of Hawaii. Even many of Obama’s most virulent conservative critics dismiss the birther movement as a radical fringe that could damage the Republican Party.

But that hasn’t stopped the birthers.

Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive at the conservative WorldNetDaily Web site, like many of those promoting questions about Obama’s right to claim he is a “natural-born” American citizen, charge that the president’s State of Hawaii “Certification of Live Birth” proves nothing.

“It’s not true that Obama has released his birth certificate,” Farah said in a telephone interview. He contends the president’s Certification of Live Birth, a digital document that the state sends to any person needing a record of their birth there, omits the name of the hospital where Obama was born and the attending physician.

“It is very easy to get one of these certifications without proof of where a person was born,” Farah said.

Farah’s Web site carries advertisement for various conservative causes, including one that allows readers to donate to the organization’s billboard campaign. The roadside advertisements read: “Where’s the Birth Certificate?”

He and some others, who are fanning the birther movement, say they have never alleged Obama was born outside the United States. They just say he hasn’t proved that he was born in the country.

Why? Conspiracy theories have a long history of thriving in the United States.

For example, some Americans still believe assassinated President John F. Kennedy was the victim mafia or Cuban or U.S. government cabal — not lone marksman Lee Harvey Oswald.

Absent evidence, still other Americans contend former President George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, were complicit in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Some say the birthers are promoting the conspiracy about Obama’s foreign birth because they are racists, unable to accept the fact that an African American was elected president of the United States. Others see a link to attempts to convince voters that Obama was a Muslim, given that his Kenyan father was.

Not so, says Farah. He says those raising the questions about Obama just want to “see the truth of the situation.”

On Oct. 31, 2008, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, said that state law prohibits release of “a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.