Confronted by Burns, Colin Hanna falsely denies questioning Obama's birth certificate

Blog ››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

While debating Media Matters president Eric Burns on Hardball today, Let Freedom Ring president Colin Hanna falsely claimed that he had never questioned President Obama's birth certificate. Watch:

In fact, in an April 15 appearance on Hardball, after Chris Matthews asked him about polls showing that many Tea Partiers don't think Obama was born in the United States, Hanna said: "Obama and those supporters around him have not answered perfectly simple and straightforward questions that would have put this to rest long ago. Where is the proper documentation?" But Obama long ago released his birth certificate, which proves he was born in the United States. Watch the video (and see the transcript at the bottom of this post):

On today's Hardball, Hanna also claimed he couldn't "recall the context" of his past suggestion that Obama would be a "token" president. In a November 3, 2008 article, the Los Angeles Times reported:

This is the other racial dynamic that is shaping the opinion of some white voters, one that has taken a back seat to discussions of white bigotry: the reality that some whites regard a vote for Obama as a victory for diversity, an atonement for past sins and a catalyst for racial healing.

For many of these voters, the topic is difficult to discuss candidly: Nobody wants to be accused of shallow "Kumbaya" motives. "You wouldn't want it to be misunderstood," said Raymond Arsenault, a civil rights history professor at the University of South Florida who supports Obama. "It sounds like identity politics."

But that is the charge being levied by some conservatives. In the final weeks of the election, they have been asking voters to consider whether a vote for Obama based on his race is a betrayal of the ideals of a colorblind society.

The rise of a major black candidate may be "positive and transformational," said Colin Hanna, president of the conservative issues group Let Freedom Ring. But Hanna contends that it is also an insufficient basis for choosing a president. "Because what you are doing is electing a policymaker," he said, "not a token."

Hanna's group has released a much-discussed Web ad that he said was targeted at voters of all races. In it, a black man evokes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous dictum to judge people by the content of their character.

"My vote will not be based on race," the man says. "I will heed that wise man."

UPDATE: Hanna has responded to this post, calling it "a completely distorted presentation" and insisting that we took his words "out of context." According to Hanna, "In both cases, Chris [Matthews] brought up the matter of the President's birth certificate, not me, and in both instances I clearly stated that I did not doubt his place of birth, but, again in both instances, noted that the President and his defenders had not done a very good job of documenting their defense."

Media Matters provided the relevant transcript and video of Hanna's April Hardball appearance. They clearly show that after being asked about Tea Partiers who don't believe Obama was born in the U.S., Hanna said: "Obama and those supporters around him have not answered perfectly simple and straightforward questions that would have put this to rest long ago. Where is the proper documentation?" As we noted, Obama released the "proper documentation" long ago.

From the Nexis transcript of Hanna's April 15 Hardball appearance:

MATTHEWS: Well, what principle leads your party to have only two fifths, less than a majority of your party people, believe that President Barack Obama was born in the U.S.? Three fifths aren`t willing to say he`s an American. What is this ethnic thing going on in the tea party movement that three fifths of your people won`t simply say, Hey, he`s one of us, he`s an American. I disagree with him on tax policy, I may disagree with him dramatically on health care, but he`s one of us? Why do three fifths of your members say, I`m not willing to say he`s an American? What`s the problem? You first, Colin.

HANNA: Well, I don`t have a problem like that, and I don`t think most of them do, either. I think the issue...

MATTHEWS: They do!

HANNA: You know, here`s the...

MATTHEWS: They just polled them.

HANNA: No, no, no. Chris -- Chris...

MATTHEWS: They just polled your guys.

HANNA: Listen to me, Chris. The point is that President Obama and those supporters around him have not answered perfectly simple and straightforward questions that would have put this to rest long ago. Where is the proper documentation?

MATTHEWS: OK, OK. You`re one of the birthers, then. You`re...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNA: No, no! I`m absolutely not a birther, Chris. But the point is that the supporters of President Obama have failed to answer in clear, simple...

MATTHEWS: What is it you want...

HANNA: ... terms, and it feeds...

MATTHEWS: ... besides -- OK...

HANNA: ... it feeds it.

MATTHEWS: OK. This is where we start and this is where it gets crazy with your -- a lot of your people. I want to go to Ryan on this. This is where it gets wacky. When you were born, was there an announcement in the newspaper that you were born? I don`t think there was for me. We weren`t that prominent. But apparently, they`ve got a newspaper back in Hawaii when he was born, announcing his birth. There is a document that they make available in Hawaii. You get it from the government. It says you were born there, at what time and at what hospital and all that stuff. What more do you want than a newspaper announcement at the time you`re born that you were born there? What more documentation would anybody want, Ryan?

HECKER: I personally don`t -- I personally don`t prescribe (SIC) to the whole birther movement. I think that if you look at the polls, over 48 percent of Americans identify themselves with tea parties, while only 44 percent -- or 42 percent with Barack Obama. So I would question that there is a lack of trust there in the American people generally for him. Now, if a certain percentage...

MATTHEWS: Three fifths...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, you`re -- are you one of the birthers? Because three fifths of the tea party people...

HECKER: I`m (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Three fifths of the tea party are not willing to simply say, OK, he`s another American like me. So why is that the case, Ryan?

HECKER: I am not a birther.

MATTHEWS: Why are three fifths of your numbers around you...

HECKER: I am not a birther and (INAUDIBLE)

HANNA: Chris, you`re trying to marginalize a grass roots movement.

HECKER: The thing is, the group is...

MATTHEWS: Marginalize? I think you are marginalized. Why are so many of you birthers?

HANNA: Not I, and I don`t...

HECKER: I am not a birther, and I don`t -- I don`t think that this movement is about that. This movement is about economic conservative and big government -- big -- I`m sorry -- you know, small government conservatism. And so I mean...

MATTHEWS: OK.

HECKER: ... you`re speaking to a certain percentage in one poll, and I don`t think that one poll reflects anything.

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