With Sen. John Kerry's confirmation hearing as secretary of state scheduled for January 24, media reports will likely invoke the coordinated 2004 campaign to "Swift Boat" Kerry. While the smears from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) have long-since fallen apart under scrutiny, Jerome Corsi, one of the masterminds behind the campaign, is revisiting his old attacks.
A look at Corsi's "reporting" during the 2008 campaign and Obama's presidency confirms what quickly became clear during his efforts to hamstring Kerry's presidential run: he has utterly no credibility and his alleged reporting should not be taken seriously by media outlets.
Prior to the 2004 election, with the backing of major Republican donors, Vietnam veteran John O'Neill co-founded SBVT in an attempt to derail Kerry's presidential bid by casting doubt on his military service. The group launched a series of dishonest ads in August of that year, accompanied by Unfit for Command, a book co-authored by O'Neill and Corsi. In its review of Unfit for Command in October 2004, The New York Times explained that while the book was filled with "discredited," "faulty" and "totally unconvincing" claims, if Kerry's presidential bid were to fail, the tome would "go down as a chief reason."
When the book was released, co-author Corsi was practically unknown in political circles. He was a regular poster at conservative message board Free Republic and worked at a financial marketing group. After Media Matters highlighted a series of offensive comments he had made at Free Republic -- including calling Muslims "ragheads" and "boy buggers" and labeling Hillary Clinton a "fat hog" -- Unfit for Command co-author John O'Neill repeatedly tried to distance himself from Corsi to tamp down the controversy. While O'Neill tried to claim Corsi merely helped edit Unfit for Command, Corsi was listed as co-author on the book jacket and promotional materials for the book touted his involvement in co-writing it.
Shortly before the 2004 election, Corsi was hired by conservative publication WorldNetDaily, which has served as his main outlet. During the 2008 campaign and Obama's presidency, Corsi has used his WND platform to promote a staggering number of outlandish conspiracies about the president, including that Obama has a fake birth certificate and stolen Social Security number; that Obama is both secretly gay and secretly Muslim; and that Obama and his family have lied about the true identity of his father, who may be either communist writer Frank Marshall Davis or "some Indonesian."
In this report:
- "Where's The Birth Certificate?": Corsi Is Leading Birther Conspiracy Theorist
- "Where's The Real Birth Certificate?": Corsi Led Charge To Declare Obama's Long-Form Fake
- "I've Always Thought The Father Was Indonesian": Corsi's Quest To Find Obama's "Real" Father
- Corsi: Obama Is Possibly Gay, Definitely A Muslim
- A Superhighway To The Education Camps
Corsi has perhaps done more than any other writer to forward the thoroughly discredited conspiracy that Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because of a phony birth certificate.
While on his 2008 media tour to promote The Obama Nation, his fact-challenged attempt to derail Obama's candidacy, Corsi helped bring the conspiracy -- which had previously been relegated mostly to chain emails and fringe conservative message boards and radio shows -- to a wider audience. (In chain email form, the conspiracy was often focused on the fabrication that Obama's real middle name was "Muhammad.")
In August 2008, Corsi appeared on Fox & Friends and charged that then-Sen. Obama's campaign had "a false, fake birth certificate posted on their website." Though the Hawaii Department of Health had already confirmed the authenticity of the document posted by the Obama campaign, Corsi announced that "there's been good analysis of it on the Internet, and it's been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop."
As the election grew closer, Corsi went further off the rails. In early October, Corsi was detained in Kenya because, according to Kenyan officials, he didn't have a work permit. Corsi didn't buy that explanation, and in a call to a conservative radio show repeatedly suggested that Obama was the mastermind behind his detention: "[J]ust don't write anything bad about Senator Obama, because, otherwise, this is what happens to you."
Later that month, Obama made a visit to Hawaii to see his ailing grandmother. In Corsi's view, however, Obama was up to something. During an appearance on Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy's radio program, Corsi said, "I am not convinced that Barack Obama is going because his grandmother is sick," and instead suggested the future president was conducting the trip in order to do something related to his birth certificate.
Obama's grandmother died shortly after his visit, two days before the election.
After Obama defeated Sen. John McCain, Corsi's work on the Obama birth certificate non-controversy continued apace and led him to make any number of nonsensical assertions, including that Obama "stole the identity" and the Social Security number of a natural born citizen.
The narrative that solidified among Corsi and the birther crowd was that the document posted by Obama's campaign was merely a phony "certificate of live birth" and hence not a real birth certificate. WND launched a series of billboards asking motorists around the country, "Where's The Birth Certificate?"
Corsi set to work writing a book premised on the assertion that Obama had not sufficiently proven his eligibility. Thanks to the promotional help of conservatives like Matt Drudge, the book hit #1 on Amazon almost a month before it was due to be released. Touting the book's importance, WND CEO Joseph Farah said it could represent a "game-changer" and "the political endgame for Barack Obama."
It wouldn't quite work out that way.
Undeterred by the version of Obama's birth certificate that had already been released, contemporaneous newspaper announcements of Obama's birth, confirmation that Obama was born in the state from Hawaii's Republican governor, and common sense, birther conspiracy theories remained surprisingly durable years into Obama's first term.
In early 2011, birtherism got a shot in the arm thanks to reality television host Donald Trump pushing the conspiracy and a variety of related falsehoods in an apparent attempt to get attention (which, depressingly, worked quite well).
With the everlasting conspiracy back in the headlines, Obama publicly released the long-form version of his birth certificate in April of 2011.
WorldNetDaily -- and Corsi in particular -- were placed in an awkward position. Corsi and the site were by this point heavily invested (in time, whatever "credibility" they possessed, and money, with their wide swath of birther products available at the "WND Superstore"), in Obama's supposed lack of a valid long-form birth certificate.
The timing was especially unfortunate for Corsi's birther tome, Where's The Birth Certificate?, which was scheduled to be released only a few short weeks after Obama released the titular long-form certificate. Faced with the apparent realization that he had wasted years of his life chasing a phony story, Corsi instead set to work publishing a series of increasingly desperate blog posts seeking to label the document a forgery.
He reprinted various critiques of the document from "experts" declaring the form to be fraudulent or suspicious. Among the supposed mysteries highlighted by Corsi were a "misspelling" of the word "The" on the registrar stamp and the "distinct form of a smiley face" that was supposedly present in the signature of Hawaii Registrar of Vital Statistics, Alvin Onaka. From Corsi's May 21, 2011 article, "'The Obama Code': Hidden Messages In Birth Document?":
According to Corsi, the smiley face, "misspelling" and other pieces of the "Obama Code" were possibly left behind by whoever had been hired to conduct the forgery, who was "laughing at those who take the document seriously." In Corsi's tortured logic, it was apparently more likely that the Obama campaign had hired a forger who embedded a series of secret Da Vinci Code-esque clues in the document than assuming the "misspelling" was merely smudged stamp ink.
Upon the release of his book, Corsi appeared on the Fox Business show America's Nightly Scoreboard. Though Fox had heartily embraced Trump's calls for Obama's to release his birth certificate, by the time Corsi appeared, a dismissive Gregg Jarrett called Corsi's theories "debunked" and told him, "So many people have looked at it very, very carefully and nobody that is seriously minded has said this is a fake."
Nevertheless, Corsi and WorldNetDaily continued to flog the "forgery" story with numerous articles, eventually releasing an e-book addendum to Corsi's book asking, "Where's The Real Birth Certificate." During this time, Corsi also told conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones that he was "completely convinced" that Trump had been secretly "working with Obama" to destroy the birther story.
While the birth certificate "controversy" has certainly cooled off since then, Corsi still writes about it regularly. He released numerous articles last year promoting the work of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "Cold Case Posse" and their ill-fated quest to prove once and for all that Obama's long form birth certificate is a forgery.
He buttressed his work with the posse with new birther reports that would be charitably labeled "bottom of the barrel." Among his recent work on the subject was an article making a big deal out of Bill Ayers' parents' former mailman's impressive penchant for remembering decades-old small talk. According to the postman, Ayers' parents once told him two decades ago that they were paying for "foreigner" Obama's education.
Corsi is inexorably drawn to any conspiracy whose premise revolves around Obama supposedly hiding something about his past. As such, he's frequently dabbled in theories positing that Obama and his family have lied about the identity of his "real" father.
During an August 2011 appearance in front of an Arizona tea party group to present his evidence that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery, Corsi was asked by an audience member whether it concerns him that Obama "does look a lot like Malcolm X."
Corsi explained "there's no proof" that Obama is actually Malcolm X's son (a theory popularized when conservative blogger Pamela Geller in 2008 reprinted a nonsensical screed on the subject sent to her by a reader). Nonetheless, in Corsi's view, he "always thought the father was Indonesian" because Obama's physical characteristics are supposedly "more Indonesian." According to Corsi, Obama's mother "might have met some Indonesian" at a bar, "and that's how it happened":
More recently, Corsi repeatedly promoted Dreams from My Real Father, a "documentary" from conservative filmmaker Joel Gilbert alleging that President Obama is actually the lovechild of Obama's mother and communist writer Frank Marshall Davis.
Corsi wrote several posts forwarding a variety of allegations from the movie -- which he described as offering a "compelling case" -- including that Obama had a nose job to conceal his supposedly growing resemblance to Davis:
Gilbert suspects Obama had the surgery because he was "concerned he was looking too much like Frank Marshall Davis as he got older."
"I don't think it was a coincidence that Obama chose to undergo a rhinoplasty before running for U.S. Senate and facing the national spotlight," Gilbert said. "If Obama was identified as Davis' son, it would connect the Marxist dots of Obama's entire life journey."
Gilbert said Obama "needed the Kenyan father fairy tale to misdirect the public away from the fact that he is a red diaper baby, the child of a Communist Party USA propagandist and Soviet agent."
Corsi also reposted some of Gilbert's images showing the supposed transformation. From Corsi's October 24, 2012, post, "Yet Another Secret About Obama's Life":
In a separate post, Corsi reported on Gilbert's absurd suggestion that President Obama's mother had been Photoshopped into a picture from his youth, but that the mysterious photo manipulator had forgotten to remove a "black hand." In a mind-boggling leap of logic, Corsi highlighted Gilbert's conclusion that the hand could very likely belong to Frank Marshall Davis, based largely on the following "comparison":
Corsi's promotion of the Gilbert documentary seemingly flew in the face of the years-long crusade to prove Obama was not actually eligible to be president, since both Stanley Ann Dunham and Frank Marshall Davis were United States citizens. The apparently counter-intuitive flogging of the Gilbert theory did not go unnoticed by the other birther faithful. In an April 2012 post on her website, dentist/lawyer/real estate agent/prominent birther Orly Taitz complained that Corsi was "destroying" the eligibility case by "gratuitously making up an American Father for Obama."
Proving that even conspiracy theorists aren't safe from being the subject of conspiracy theories, Taitz asked of Corsi and WND CEO Joseph Farah, "Who are they working for?"
Last year, Corsi drew widespread ridicule for posting a video to YouTube claiming there's "strong" evidence suggesting that Obama was either gay or bisexual. His laughably flimsy evidence? That Obama wore a gold band on his ring finger in law school and appeared in "chummy" pictures with his Pakistani roommate, whom Corsi thinks was possibly his secret husband:
The gay wedding ring mystery was far from the first time Corsi had forwarded bizarre theories about Obama's secret homosexuality.
In 2008, ex-convict Larry Sinclair spun a preposterous story about how he engaged in two cocaine-fueled sexual encounters with Barack Obama in 1999. Though Sinclair failed a lie detector test and had his story scoffed at by reasonable reporters, Corsi has written multiple articles about the allegations in the past year alone, featuring headlines like "Another Boost For Obama's 'Gay' Accuser."
A few months before the 2012 presidential election, Corsi published a series of articles premised on the idea that Obama had hidden his previous "gay life" in order to further his political ambitions. Among the allegations he reprinted from an anonymous source were that Rev. Jeremiah Wright had served as a "matchmaker" for closeted black men (including Obama) at Trinity Church.
As quoted by Corsi, the sources he spoke to wanted to remain anonymous out of fear, because a choir director that knew of Obama's hidden homosexuality had possibly been surreptitiously murdered in 2007. From Corsi's October 2, 2012 article, "Trinity Church Members Reveal Obama Shocker!":
"I'm still scared to discuss any of this," Carolyn said.
"At Trinity, if you even hint at talking about Obama being gay, you are reminded of our dear departed choir director," she said. "He was killed, and it wasn't a robbery. The Christmas presents weren't touched. The TV was not taken, nothing in the apartment was missing.
Corsi has also given column space to suggestions that Obama had a romantic relationship with his body man, Reggie Love, and that Obama was an active member of the "'gay' bar and bathhouse scene" in Chicago.
Showing his versatility as a conspiracy theorist, Corsi has pointed to Obama's wedding ring -- which he says is the same ring Obama wore as a student at Harvard Law School (during his possible gay marriage to his Pakistani roommate) -- and used it as the basis for a separate conspiracy.
Corsi, citing the help of "Arabic-language and Islamic experts," claimed that the ring is adorned with the first part of the Islamic declaration of faith, the Shahada: "There is no god except Allah."
From Corsi's post:
Fact-checking website Snopes.com has declared this rumor "false," explaining that a higher resolution picture of the ring reveals merely a "plain loop-like pattern" and no discernible Arabic.
Even without the ring, Corsi has long been convinced that Obama is a secret Muslim. During a speech at WorldNetDaily's 2010 Taking America Back convention, Corsi told the crowd, "That [Obama's] not a Muslim and that he was born in the United States are both lies."
Corsi has popularized such an unwieldy number of conspiracies over the years that it's impossible to document all of them. Some other lowlights:
- Corsi frequently appears on the radio program of 9-11 truther/conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Alex Jones. To get an idea of how their conversations go, Corsi told Jones before November's election that if Obama won, "people like you and me will be in thought education camps -- if they allow us to live."
- Before the 2008 election, Corsi similarly suggested that Obama critics might be put in jail if he won.
- In late 2008, Corsi seized on clearly fabricated emails supposedly written by Obama that showed the then-presidential candidate's close relationship with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. As explained by Ben Smith, then with Politico, the email Corsi held forth as evidence was obviously not written by a native English speaker. In the first line "Obama" writes "I will kindly wish that all our correspondence handled by Mr. Mark Lippert."
- Corsi has been quick to launch incendiary smears based on the flimsiest of evidence. After the Ft. Hood shooting, he posted an article with a headline that falsely claimed the shooter, Nadal Hasan, had advised the Obama transition. Hasan merely attended public events organized by George Washington University's "Presidential Transition Task Force." In the article, Corsi himself conceded there was no evidence "the group played any formal role in the official Obama transition."
- For years, Corsi has written numerous articles (and a book) about the ever-impending "NAFTA Superhighway," a stretch of road allegedly several football fields wide that will link America, Canada, and Mexico with an end-goal of creating a "North American Union." The theory has been discarded by conservatives like former Human Events editor Jed Babbin, who compared it to believing in Bigfoot.
That something like the NAFTA Super Highway barely warrants mention in a compendium of his recent conspiracy theories gives you an idea of the character of Corsi's oeuvre.