Rush Limbaugh today breathed new life into the inflammatory lie that President Obama's Social Security number is illegitimate. In response to a caller who cast doubt on Obama's birth certificate, Limbaugh asked, "What are your thoughts on the fact that Obama's Social Security number is from Connecticut, and he's never been there?" This is only the latest long-debunked smear conservative talk radio hosts are re-injecting into the mainstream in this election year.
The point that Limbaugh and other Social Security-obsessed birthers have seized on is that the first three digits of Obama's Social Security number would only be assigned to someone whose request was processed in Connecticut. But as the Social Security Administration explained:
Prior to 1972, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the Area Number [the first three digits of an SSN] represented the State in which the card was issued. This did not necessarily have to be the State where the applicant lived, since a person could apply for their card in any Social Security office. Since 1972, when SSA began assigning SSNs and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, the area number assigned has been based on the ZIP code in the mailing address provided on the application for the original Social Security card. The applicant's mailing address does not have to be the same as their place of residence. Thus, the Area Number does not necessarily represent the State of residence of the applicant, either prior to 1972 or since.
As the urban legends website Snopes noted, the ZIP code for the Honolulu area, 96814, is very similar to the ZIP code of Danbury, Connecticut, 06814:
Why Barack Obama's Social Security card application might have included a Connecticut mailing address is something of a curiosity, as he had no known connection to that state at the time, but by itself that quirk is no indicator of fraud. The most likely explanation for the discrepancy is a simple clerical or typographical error: the ZIP code in the area of Honolulu where Barack Obama lived is 96814, while the ZIP code for Danbury, Connecticut, is 06814. Since '0' and '9' are similarly shaped numbers and are adjacent on typewriter keyboards, it's not uncommon for handwritten examples to be mistaken for each other, or for one to be mistyped as the other (thereby potentially resulting in a Hawaiian resident's application mistakenly being routed as if it had originated from Connecticut).
Limbaugh's nod to the fringe birther movement comes only two weeks after radio host and CNN contributor Dana Loesch revived the smear that Obama was educated in a "madrassa." CNN -- Loesch's own employer -- debunked the claim five years ago.
Loesch defined a "madrassa" as "kind of like the equivalent in Islam of a Catholic school in Catholicism." However, this is problematic since the American media have primarily applied the word to radical schools that sprang up following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, many of which engage in anti-Western "political indoctrination." The term madrassa in this context is often purposefully used to stoke fears about Muslims.
Limbaugh has repeatedly entertained and promoted the notion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. At the same time, he has also warned his listeners to be wary of birther theories, cautioning them against going down that "dead end street" and claiming he's "not going to be distracted" by such claims.