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Mike Zullo: Birther misleader

I want to focus on two statements, one made by Mike Zullo before the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer’s convention June 1, 2013, and one by Mark Gillar in an interview with Mike Volin the following December. I make the comparison to show that birthers who hear what Mike Zullo says can be misled. Here’s Zullo’s statement:

In 1961, the term used to describe black people on a birth certificate was “negro.”  In order to document this we obtained the 1960 vital statistics instruction manual containing the instructions for coding race on a birth certificate that where followed by every health department in the United States, including the Hawaiian Health Department. As you can see, if the parents race was reported as “colored,” “black,” “brown,” or “Afro-American” the Department of Health Services was required to consider the parents a “negro.” For those of you who may be wondering why the 1960 manual was consulted instead of the 1961 manual, it’s because the 1961 manual wasn’t published until 10 days after Barack Obama’s birth…

Anyone who is familiar with birthers knows that it is widely held among them that the Father’s Race (African) on the Obama certificate is not an allowable entry, and therefore the only reasonable purpose for Zullo’s statement would be to confirm that view. Upon careful examination, Zullo doesn’t say that the race reported by the parent is restricted or changed, but only considered “negro” (in context “considered” refers to the application of a set of rules for determining the race of the child). Zullo also does not say who does the considering—it is key operators at the National Center for Health Statistics who enter data from microfilm records from the states). Zullo also does not say that the 1960 manual was used to code Obama’s data, only notes its publication date. Since 1961 data was keyed in 1962, the August 1961 manual is the applicable document for all 1961 data. A careless listener might also think that the Zullo statement was applicable to the Obama certificate, even though the race “African” wasn’t a listed category. Finally Zullo may leave the impression that what he cited from the 1960 manual was not in the 1961 manual, but it is.

Now what happens when a birther hears the Zullo statement? Here is Mark Gillar’s impression:

It’s about law. In 1961 when Obama was born, the 1961 vital statistics coding manual had not come out. They were still using, even in August, they were still using the 1960 vital statistics manual, and what that manual clear states is that if someone represents themself as “African American,” which was abbreviated A. A., if they represented themself as “black,” if they represented themself as “colored,” the clerk at the department of health was still supposed to list them as a negro. And that’s what the 1960 book has. I can give that to you guys. I actually got them to turn that over to me.

Zullo’s “Department of Health Services,” an ambiguous term probably indicating the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal successor agency to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare that issued the 1960 manual becomes in Gillar’s mind “Department of Health,” which would be appropriate for the Hawaii Department of Health or other local health department. In Gillar’s mind, “considered as” (for statistical purposes) became “list them as.” The fact that Gillar makes the statement at all suggests that he also failed to notice that “African” wasn’t on the list in the instructions.

In the infamous tableau of false and misleading statements that was the second Cold Case Posse press conference, perhaps the highlight was the account of Jerome Corsi’s interview with Verna K. Lee, a registrar at the Hawaii Department of Health in 1961, the person who signed Obama’s birth certificate. Zullo attributed very little to Lee beyond the assertion that entries on Hawaiian birth certificates were double checked,  yet I have read birthers say that basically everything in that press conference related to race coding came from Lee, including the fake 1961 race code chart.

Here is what Zullo actually said:

These codings we learned through our investigation, and then locating the mysterious U.K. Lee, which has plagued this thing for four years, where people were wondering who this is, we located Verna Lee. Verna Lee is 95 years old, amazingly sharp. We spoke with her and she confirms to us what I’m going to share with you now.

You can’t have a document coded like other documents double-checked and have a code that says 9, “not stated” and have a piece of information sitting in the box. That just can’t happen. Verna Lee confirmed that for us.

See how easily one could fall into the false impression that Zullo was saying that Lee had confirmed a specific 1961 code and that she had confirmed everything that followed. Does “what I’m going to share with you now” refer to the next paragraph or more? It’s ambiguous. In fact birther listeners widely believe that it was Zullo who interviewed Lee over the phone rather than Jerome Corsi; that is after all what one expects the lead investigator to do.

The human mind expects that points in an argument are relevant and logically consistent, and it will fill in some obvious gaps. I do this myself. In the case of Mike Zullo, filling in those obvious omissions is a mistake because sometimes the obvious relevance and logical connection one would fill in isn’t true.

See also:


Note: I have found it curious that neither Zullo nor Gillar has been willing to provide the title of this 1960 manual. I think I know why.

Michigan candidate gets his birth certificate

Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mark McFarlin went to the vital records office to get his birth certificate, and to make a press statement about Obama’s.

I previously reported that McFarlin was a Republican running as a Democrat, but in this video, he says that he is a Republican. McFarlin has received some media attention about his ill-informed claim that “African American” should not have appeared on Obama’s certificate. Responding to criticism that “African American” isn’t on the President’s certificate, McFarlin corrects the record with the ill-informed claim that “African” should not have appeared on the certificate, citing the investigation of the Maricopa County Arizona volunteer Cold Case Posse. (The Cold Case Posse is a birther named Mike Zullo who has fabricated evidence and lied.)

Read more about why McFarlin is ill-informed: