In light of Lou Dobbs' recent promotion of birther theories, Media Matters presents a look at some of the leading figures within the birther community and the views they've espoused.
In recent days, on both radio and TV, CNN host Lou Dobbs has provided cover for conspiracy theorists who claim that President Obama lacks a valid birth certificate and is therefore ineligible to be president. Specifically, Dobbs has repeatedly said that Obama needs to "produce a birth certificate" and cast doubt on the birth certificate posted online by FactCheck.org. Moreover, Dobbs has claimed that "reasonable people should be interested" in the issue and that Obama has refused to put the questions to rest.
Given Dobbs' spotlighting of the birthers' claims, Media Matters for America presents some of the leading figures within the birther community and the views they've espoused. The figures include Andy Martin, who has made anti-Semitic and racially charged comments; 9-11 "Truther" Philip Berg; perennial candidate for public office Alan Keyes, who has reportedly accused Obama of taking the "slaveholder's position" on abortion; a pastor who has prayed for Obama's death; and the discredited right-wing website WorldNetDaily (WND).
Dobbs has hosted some of the birthers, while others have cited Dobbs' efforts as evidence that the birther movement is growing. WND wrote in a July 16 article that it "has been reporting -- many times in solo fashion -- on the issues that have been raised by multiple lawsuits" and cited Dobbs as evidence that "now word is spreading." Martin wrote in a post on his blog that "the controversy has continued to increase" and that "Dobbs apparently said he was going to contact the Hawai'i governor to demand release of the birth certificate." And on her blog, birther lawyer and dentist Orly Taitz wrote a post titled "More on Eligibility on CNN," which included a link to a Media Matters video featuring Dobbs claiming that there are "a lot of [birther] questions remaining" and that "questions won't go away because they haven't been dealt with."
Gawker's Alex Pareene also explored the birther movement in a July 22 post, "The Birthers: Who Are They and What Do They Want?" and cited Dobbs, among others, as figures granting the birthers legitimacy.
The New York Times has reported that Martin, who describes himself as an "Internet columnist," "is credited as being among the first -- if not the first -- to assert in a chain e-mail message that Mr. Obama was secretly a Muslim." The Nation's Christopher Hayes has written that when asked about emails being circulated that claimed Obama was educated in a madrassa -- a falsehood, like the claim that Obama is a Muslim:
"Everybody started calling me" when the e-mail first made the rounds, Andy Martin told me. "They said, 'Hey, did you write this?' My answer was 'they are all my children.' "
As Media Matters has documented, Martin has a history of making anti-Semitic and racially charged comments, such as claiming that "African-American judges ... circle the wagons and try to protect Barry [Obama]" and that "African-Americans are willing to corrupt and abuse their-public offices to defend their own sleazy candidate for office." The Chicago Tribune and several federal courts have stated that Martin has called a judge a "crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race."
In October 2008, Martin appeared on Fox News' Hannity's America and smeared Obama by claiming he was "training for a radical overthrow of the government" as a community organizer. Fox News later reportedly "express[ed] regret" for hosting Martin given his past remarks.
As the Politico's Ben Smith noted, Berg is "a former Pennsylvania prosecutor who has also sued President George W. Bush to claim that he was complicit in the September 11 attacks." In 2004, Berg filed a suit with the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania on behalf of William Rodriguez. Among Rodriguez's claims in Rodriguez v. Bush was the assertion that "[s]cientific data clearly indicates that the World Trade Center buildings ... were destroyed by means of controlled demolitions, of the sort that take weeks or months to prepare and could only have been an 'inside job.' "
In an August 28, 2008, article (retrieved from Nexis), The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania) reported that "[c]areer gadfly Philip Berg has a new conspiracy theory -- Barack Obama's actually an African. ... Obama is lying about his U.S. citizenship, Berg's suit asserts, and actually was born in Kenya, according to Obama's grandmother, brother and sister. Only U.S. citizens by birth can be president. Berg's proof? Widely debunked online accounts." The Morning Call also reported that "Berg's blog indicates he has spoken about his 9/11 lawsuit in cities around the world."
In March, a federal judge dismissed another birther lawsuit filed by Berg, Hollister v. Barry Soetoro. The judge wrote of Berg's suit:
This case, if it were allowed to proceed, would deserve mention in one of those books that seek to prove that the law is foolish or that America has too many lawyers with not enough to do. Even in its relatively short life the case has excited the blogosphere and the conspiracy theorists. The right thing to do is to bring it to an early end.
As Media Matters has documented, on the October 3, 2008, broadcast of Clear Channel's The War Room with Quinn & Rose, Berg asserted that "evidence" indicates that "Barack Obama, even though he states he was born in Hawaii ... was born in Kenya" and added: "It appears right now he might be an illegal alien, not only not be qualified to be president, but not even qualified to be a United States senator from Illinois."
Keyes is a frequent presidential candidate who also unsuccessfully ran as the Republican candidate during the 2004 Illinois Senate race against Obama. During the course of the Illinois campaign, Keyes reportedly made numerous controversial remarks, including labeling homosexuality "selfish hedonism"; calling former Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter a sinner; calling Obama's views on abortion "the slaveholder's position"; accusing Obama of supporting "infanticide"; and claiming, "Christ would not vote for Barack Obama."
Since then, Keyes has called Obama a "radical communist" who is going to "destroy this country, and we are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist"; said Obama "has made himself the focus of evil, the focus of child-killing policy"; and claimed Obama openly displays "contempt for the Constitution's eligibility requirements for the presidency."
Keyes filed a lawsuit against Obama regarding his birth certificate and discussed it on Dobbs' radio show. He is currently a columnist for WorldNetDaily.
Before interviewing Taitz, Dobbs said that he began questioning Obama's birth certificate after Taitz filed a lawsuit on behalf of an Army major. In a June 17 profile, the Orange County Weekly's Spencer Kornhaber described Taitz as the "queen bee of people obsessed with" Obama's birth certificate. Kornhaber wrote that "[s]ince November of last year, Taitz has been 'criss-crossing the country'; talking with activists, law-enforcement officers and government officials; filing lawsuits and finding plaintiffs; and speaking at events." Dobbs hosted Taitz and Keyes on the July 15 edition of his radio program. At the conclusion of his interview with Taitz and Keyes, Dobbs said he "learned a lot today, we appreciate it."
Taitz has reportedly made numerous controversial remarks, including:
- According to the OC Weekly article, Taitz also said that Obama is a "usurper" and an "arrogant jerk from Africa and Indonesia," and "calls anyone who stands in her way an 'Obama thug.' "
- According to several blogs -- including ones that support and oppose birther theories -- Taitz wrote that Obama should be tried for "crimes perpetrated upon American citizens": "There is no proof that you are even a citizen. For all we know, you need to go back to Kenya and wait for your green card, and that after we try you for all the crimes perpetrated upon American citizens."
- Taitz wrote that Obama defenders should be tried in "Nurenberg [sic] style trials":
As a follow up to the previous article about Clair McCuskill [sic], Obama "truth" squad and people like Secretary of State of Ohio Jennifer Brunner and all the others that have been collaborating with this Gestapo-SS establishment, they all should and would be tried in Nurenberg [sic] style trials for harassing, intimidating, blackmailing and terrorizing fellow citizens, for defrauding the whole country. Patriots of this country didn't fight and defeat Nazi Germany to end up with Obamas, McCuskill [sic], Soros, Brunner and the rest of this squad. I hope that the men in this country, particularly in our military will finally revolt against this travesty of Justice. If our government and our elected officials and our judiciary have failed us, then it is time for the new government, new elected officials and a new judiciary.
Taitz is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Berg. Media Matters editor and ConWebWatch proprietor Terry Krepel wrote of Berg's lawsuit against Taitz:
Philip Berg -- the same person whose legal actions over the birth certificate WND first endeavored to shoot down until it decided that they served its anti-Obama agenda -- filed a lawsuit against Taitz in April, accusing her and various associates of "harassing" Berg and fellow plaintiffs (among them Taitz's former webmaster), and filing "falsified police and law enforcement reports" regarding her claims against the former webmaster. Berg noted in his filing that "Taitz is no stranger to falsifying stories and falsely claiming to be the victim of 'hacking' of her websites" and accuses Taitz of plagiarizing the briefs he filed in his birth certificate-related actions for her own filings. Berg also claimed that an investigator working for Taitz dug up alleged information about an employee of Berg's and "sent the information to Taitz and a reporter with World Net Daily" complete with the employee's full Social Security number, which neither the investigator nor Taitz had "permissible purpose to obtain."
In a June 22 Washington Independent post, David Weigel wrote of Taitz: "I ran into the same problem that Kornhaber did -- for all of Taitz's legwork, none of her stuff held up. It was/is based on misunderstandings and a failure to check the veracity or meaning of documents with the right people."
In his OC Weekly article, Kornhaber wrote that radio pastor Wiley Drake helped bring Taitz into the birther movement. Drake was Keyes' running mate in 2008 on the America's Independent Party presidential ticket and, with Keyes, filed suit against Obama over his birth certificate.
The conservative news website WorldNetDaily.com frequently posts articles and commentary regarding Obama's birth certificate. WND also offers, "Where's the Birth Certificate?" merchandise and has funded "Where's the Birth Certificate?" billboards across the country. WND gives readers a chance to contribute to "The Fund For Truth About Obama Birth," which promises to offer a reward to anyone "who can provide persuasive evidence of involvement or presence at that birth -- whether it took place in Hawaii or elsewhere." WND also hosts a petition for "demanding that the constitutional eligibility requirement be taken seriously and that any and all controlling legal authorities in this matter examine the complete birth certificate of Barack Obama." The petition claims to have more than 420,000 signatures.
In reporting on Obama's birth certificate, WND has frequently advanced the claim that Obama was actually born in Kenya. PolitiFact.com has recently criticized WND for falsely claiming that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs "lied when he said Obama's birth certificate is posted on the Internet."
Jerome Corsi is a staff writer for WND. In August 2008, Corsi claimed on Fox News that Obama posted online a "false, fake birth certificate." Since then, Corsi has promoted birther theories on WND and elsewhere.
- Corsi on Islam: "a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion"
- Corsi on Catholicism: "Boy buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn't reported by the liberal press"
- Corsi on Muslims: "RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters -- it all goes together"
- Corsi on "John F*ing Commie Kerry": "After he married TerRAHsa, didn't John Kerry begin practicing Judiasm [sic]? He also has paternal grandparents that were Jewish. What religion is John Kerry?"
- Corsi on Senator "FAT HOG" Clinton: "Anybody ask why HELLary couldn't keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?"
In addition to the previously noted birther leaders, as TalkingPointsMemo.com noted, Holocaust Memorial Museum shooter James von Brunn "wrote an internet posting complaining that Obama's birth certificate and other documents have not been made public." Von Brunn has a long history of racist and white supremacist writings.