Dr. Ronald Polland (AKA Ron Polarik – pictured right) has been promoting a claim recently. He says that the White House has been distributing copies of a fake Obama 2007 Certification of Live Birth (COLB) that he made. WorldNetDaily, the all birther all the time outlet for crank claims about Obama birth certificates, obliged with a new article by WND Birther in Chief Jerome Corsi, “I created Obama’s certification of birth”.
Is it true and if so, what does it mean?
Polland starts with a true statement. The White House did publish a black and white copy [link to image on White House web site] of the COLB that it got from Snopes.com [link to Snopes article showing COLB image]. You can see that the White House image is a “screen print” of a Snopes image because the Snopes file name is shown in the page footer. That means that rather than contacting the Obama Campaign, getting the Certification (which at last report was in Chicago) and scanning it, the White House staffer in charge of putting together the press kit snapped up a copy from a trusted source, Snopes.com, and used that. So as far as the White House: end of story. There’s nothing to see here; move along. There’s certainly no proof that an original COLB doesn’t exist.
But did the Snopes copy come from Polland? That’s harder to pin down. Polland presents a screen shot [link to image at WND] where he supposedly hovers his mouse cursor over the Snopes hyperlink as he claims it existed some time in the past (it is significant that Polland does not say when he made this screen shot and one can’t tell from the image). The hover text shows a URL to Polarik’s Photobucket account. (When I tried it with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome, the hover text did not appear in the position where Polland’s image shows and it doesn’t point to Photobucket.) The problem here is that Polland claims to be a consummate forger and expert on the manipulation of images. He’s also been on a crusade for over 3 years to convince others that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery. So we have motive, method and opportunity for Polland to have faked this screen shot. How about the Wayback Machine? No help there; it excludes Snopes.com. We basically only have Polland’s word for the authenticity of this exhibit.
What we do know from the White House screen print is that the file that Snopes linked to on April 25, 2011 was not Polarik’s Photobucket account, but a copy on Snopes own server (the URL is shown in the image footer). We also know that the image on Snopes is not like the image on Polland’s Photobucket account today [link to Polarik’s Photobucket image] (they differ in resolution and file size and in another important detail we’ll discuss following).
Now here it gets really confusing. Polland claims that that after he made it public that Snopes had his fake COLB, Snopes changed the image, so that today, they aren’t using the Polarik link. But that’s not all. Polland says that the image in his Photobucket account today is not the same one that was there earlier either. Polland’s “new image” was altered by taking the “prima facie evidence” line at the bottom and tilting it. This tilt is not visible in either the Snopes image today, nor the White House image from April 25. So we are faced with a claim of the equivalence of two images in the past, neither of which supposedly remains in their original form today, and neither of which can be tied to any particular date and time in the past.
Let’s return to Polland’s claim that Snopes linked to his image. In support of this Polland presents a reader comment posted at Salon.com that mentions the Snopes article and the Polarik Photobucket URL. The 2008 Salon comment, and the one that follows it that also mentions the Polarik URL, may well have been written by Polland himself, based on the ranting style and subject matter, and in no case does the comment actually say that the Snopes article points the the Polarik URL. Polland then points to another comment, this time at the Huffington Post from 2011, but it doesn’t even mention Snopes.
I did, however, find a suggestive letter to the Editor of the Fort Meyers News-Press from January 3, 2009:
Obama’s birth certificate online
Recent published letters have challenged the birth right of President-elect Obama. Mr. Obama’s birth certificate is viewable on line through the Snopes channel. Cynics should go to http://i305.photobucket.com/albums/nn227/Polarik/BO_Birth_Certificate.jpg to see for themselves the certificate issued by the Department of Health, State of Hawaii.
One wonders, though, why the writer wouldn’t just link to the Snopes page where the image was embedded if the information had come from Snopes, rather than right clicking the image and copying the image URL. This, the best example I could find, still doesn’t say Snopes linked to Photobucket. Further, we don’t know whether in January of 2009 the image in the Polarik account was authentic or his fake. Polland could have put a real certificate on his site, then spread the URL around; folks could have used it, and then he changed the image for a fake. Easy enough. In fact Polland admits to doing just about same thing – altering his putative fake on Photobucket by tilting some of the text just to “see if anyone noticed.”
In contradiction to Polland’s claim, I found this message on Snopes.com from July 24, 2009, indicating that Snopes had its own copy of the birth certificate on its own server.
An act of patriotism is required by citizens of this country. We need to stand behind our duly and fairly elected president.
Recently the Times-Herald published a letter to the editor by one righteous individual ("Stand behind Obama? I don’t think so," Bob Ireland, July 20) who proclaimed his reasons for not supporting President Obama. My advice to this gentleman is to turn off Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and turn on your brain.
Mr. Ireland says Mr. Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Here is a link to his birth certificate: msgboard.snopes.com/politics/graphics/birth.jpg.
It is therefore extremely unlikely that Snopes linked to Polarik’s Photobucket account for its images between November 16, 2009 and present.
So far, we have very weak evidence that Snopes ever linked to the Polarik Photobucket image, some to the contrary, and no evidence whatever about what was in Polarik’s Photobucket account in 2009. In an attempt to cement his case, Polland goes into disinformation mode and loses any claim to truthfulness. He says through Corsi:
The Snopes.com link to the Polland fake document was still in place at the time of the April 27 White House press conference, as demonstrated by a reference to Polland’s Photobucket website. At Polland’s site, the hits to his fake document peaked April 27, as seen in Exhibit 8.
However, we know from the White House screen print from April 25 that Snopes was NOT linking to Polarik’s Photobucket account on that date. Snopes.com operates a forum in addition to its regular site, and it is possible that the hits generated in April (and the graphic is for the whole month of April, not just April 27) were from forum comments where anyone could have posted a message and generated hits. In fact, the number of hits from Snopes is far too small for Snopes to have been using Polarik’s image. Look at my hits for April:
I had 34,307 page views on April 27 alone. It stands to reason that a major site like Snopes.com would get more hits on their Obama birth certificate page than I did, so for Snopes to be embedding the Polarik image on its page, there should be one hit at Photobucket for each hit at Snopes, but Polarik’s number is way too small for that be the case.
In conclusion, Ron Polland presents some very weak evidence, mostly his own testimony, that Snopes.com at one time linked to his image of the Obama Birth Certificate which he claims to have forged. However, Polland’s image has changed, and Snopes article has changed, and nothing can be verified. Even if Snopes did at one time link to the Polarik Photobucket image, we can’t verify that when that happened, the image was a forgery. All we know for sure is that today the Polarik Photobucket image is a fake, and the Snopes.com image is not.
If Snopes ever linked to the Polarik Photobucket image they had stopped doing so by November of 2008. Polarik offers no evidence that the birth certificate image on Snopes servers after January of 2009 came from him, nor that what the White House published came from him.