2009 was an amazing year for conspiracy theories and fringe views about Barack Obama. If any one thing about the year was remarkable, it was the persistence of those who support these views. What started up as a few Internet blogs turned by year’s end into a new word, “birther” entering the vocabulary as a runner up for “word of the year.” Certainly much of the credit goes to the WorldNetDaily web site, a site with considerable readership that has been willing to publish just about any theory that was presented if it made Obama look suspicious.
“Birther” views (theories that Barack Obama’s mother slipped away to Africa to give birth to our President and slipped back to plant a false birth registration in Hawaii) persisted through the year, and 2009 was presented with not one, but two fake Kenyan birth certificates for Barack Obama. While the two fake certificates were quickly debunked by Internet investigators, still the very appearance of fakes tended to cheapen on-line copies of birth certificates in general, and President Obama’s in particular. They brought home the valid point that images on the Internet are easily faked.
By midyear most folks had realized that the “African genesis” was really too implausible to be taken seriously and Obama eligibility denialism shifted to legal theories defining the constitutional requirement that a US president be a “natural born citizen.”Led by sometime lawyer and semi-professional poker player, Leo C. Donofrio, a set of arguments based on the writing of a now-obscure 18th century Swiss jurist, Emerich de Vattel, were crafted to overturn the conventional wisdom that US presidents just had to be born US citizens. Indeed the arguments were so successful that many individuals developed false memories that they were taught this in their high school civics class (even though no textbook with this idea has ever been found). When it was discovered that Chester A. Arthur, a 19th century president, also had a non-citizen parent, a campaign was launched to smear Arthur.
The idea that loyalty is transmitted through the blood played well with those holding racist sentiments, and those who feel threatened by immigrants and the changing ethnic demographics of the country. Eligibility denialists reached back to racist court decisions, such as the infamous Dred Scott case, to find support for parentage-based citizenship.
More than anything else, 2009 was the year of the lawsuit, with 63 cases to date being filed. With the lawsuits came a stream of lawyers, including the manic Orly Taitz, DDS, Esq, the aforementioned Donofrio, the personable Gary Kreep, the sharp-tongued Mario Apuzzo, the all-around conspiracy theorist Phillip J. Berg, the elderly John D. Hemenway, Stephen Pidgeon and the always prolific pro se. None of the cases went anywhere, being dismissed for lack of standing, redressability and jurisdiction. Some judges took the trouble to label the cases “frivolous” and sanctions were issued against Taitz and Hemenway. One state appeals court in Indiana went so far as to rule on and reject the parentage requirement, much to the chagrin of the denialists.
2009 became somewhat of a soap opera for the denialists, first with claims of hacking and misappropriation of donations leading to a lawsuit between several of the denialist personalities: Berg, Taitz, Ostella, Liberi and Hale. Next there were claims that Taitz had suborned perjury followed by tawdry descriptions of the extra-marital sexual relations of Taitz (something not covered by this web site). Two convicted felons got involved with the Taitz lawsuits. Taitz herself was plagued by malicious software being distributed by her web site.
While traffic here at Obama Conspiracy Theories peaked in August of 2009, it remained strong throughout the year. News coverage of “birthers” has been steadily increasing. In news articles today we find that “birther” has entered the mainstream vocabulary and it is used in contexts where the reader is expected to already know what it means. This is the great shift: Obama denialism has turned from a crank idea that hardly anyone had heard about to a crank idea that everybody has heard about. I offer a special thanks to the Columbus, GA Ledger-Enquirer for its in depth hometown coverage of the lawsuits in federal court there.
Here are some of the highlights from this web site.
- January: Many birthers fooled by satirical story of Obama requiring military recruits to swear allegiance to him. Kerchner v. Obama lawsuit filed. A vigil was held at the Supreme Court. Orly attacked Obama in court using an obscure and inapplicable executive order from George Bush, the case that became Barnett v. Obama. Kapi’olani Hospital celebrates anniversary with letter from Obama stating he was born there. Oh, and Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States.
- February: Obama Conspiracy Theories blog declares John McCain birth certificate a fake. Tensions between the Taitz and Berg camps heat up. TN Representative Swafford joins Taitz list of plaintiffs.
- March: Taitz publishes do-it-yourself grand jury manual. Hollister v. Soetoro case dismissed, attorney Hemenway reprimanded. Taitz called for an investigation of cyber fraud at the Supreme Court. Andy Martin’s National Conference on Obama’s missing birth certificate and college records.
- April: Anonymous complaint filed against Orly Taitz with the California Bar. Orly launches Dr. Orly Taitz, Esq blog (her 4th). Attorney Apuzzo makes claim that President Obama is currently a British subject. Andy Martin boycotts Hawaii.
- May: First “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” billboard appears in Ball, LA. Liberi v. Taitz lawsuit filed.
- June: President Obama swatted a fly during a taped interview. This blog cited in a federal lawsuit (Hamblin v. Obama). Berg v. Obama lawsuit unsealed and dismissed. White supremacist birther kills museum guard. Department of Health declares the COLB the “official” birth certificate of Hawaii.
- July: Daily KOS poll shows striking regional divide in Obama Conspiracy beliefs. Ronald Polland identified as the man behind the Ron Polarick, PhD character. Orly Taitz appears on a special birther edition of The Colbert Report on the Comedy Channel. Hawaii official declares Obama a “natural born citizen” born in Hawaii. Cook v Good lawsuit dismissed in Georgia. Taitz files First Amended Complaint in Keyes v. Obama. Super American Grand Jury booted out of court. Al Franken wins Minnesota Senate seat.
- August: Rhodes v. Gates lawsuit filed (and dismissed). Address on Obama birth announcement confirmed. Fake Kenyan birth certificates abound! Taitz blog infested with malware. More fake birth certificates. Taitz accuses Judge Lazzara of conspiracy. Craig v US appeal denied.
- September: Barnett v. Obama dismissed.
- October: Lucas Smith declares Orly asked him to lie under oath. Kerchner v. Obama dismissed. Hearing in Barnett v. Obama before Judge Carter. Leo Omolo interview at the Post and Email blog. Orly sanctioned by Judge Land in Georgia. Obama wins Nobel Prize.
- November: Cook v Good appeal dismissed. Orly Taitz protest against Fox News. Wiley Drake and Pastor Manning stop praying for Obama to Die.“Birther” is finalist for “word of the year.” Homeland Security visits Pastor Manning – Manning video scrubbed from YouTube. Indiana appeals court declares citizen parents not required to be a “natural born citizen.” Berg v. Obama appeal denied.
- December: One year anniversary for Obama Conspiracy Theories web site. Donofrio and Pidgeon file lawsuit on behalf of former Chrysler dealers. Sarah Palin makes birther comment (and takes it back). Donofrio closes his blog.
That was just a small sample of the over 600 articles on this site.
It’s hard to see into the future. The few remaining lawsuits on appeal will almost certainly be denied. Certainly denialists will attempt to make their theories an issue in the 2010 elections, and this may have some effect particularly in the South where denialism among white conservatives is a mainstream (if not even a majority) view. It’s a scary time with the US economy recovering slowly with persistent unemployment. There is always the fear that someone will do something stupid and someone will get hurt. I think this unlikely, but it remains a possibility.
Stay tuned. This blog is in it for another year.
How about starting January addressing Spiro Agnew…
Apparently, he was born to 2 foreigners in Maryland. Is he considered Natural Born?
Evidence is a 1920 census record that clearly states that someone named Theodore S Agnew lived at 222 Madison St. in Baltimore, Maryland, who immigrated to the United States in 1887, and clearly is marked with the AL signifying Alien in the record.
It is also clear that the wife of this person, A Margaret M. Agnew, is also marked with the AL signifying Alien (I’m persuming that’s because she married a foreigner).
OT Pat Robertson:
Why is this man highly regarded in your country and not passing out greasy leaflets outside subway stations?
Also, he got his Napoleons confused.
Excellent summary, Dr. Conspiracy!
Since you mentioned the June incident of killing by “birther” James Von Brunn, I wanted to bring up that there were other such birther-related acts of violence last year as well.
Such as the August 2009 slaying of 4 women in PA by reported “birther”, George Sondini:
And there was the case of Richard Poplawski (also in PA), reportedly a “birther” who posted on Stormfront, who killed 3 cops in April 2009 and was ranting about Obama taking away his guns:
There are many people in this country who do not hold Pat Robertson in “high regard” and who view him and his his seemingly never-ending vile statements as extremely shameful and utter disgusting.
Why he still has support and the 700 Club, despite his many vile public statements over the years, I will never understand. I think he is a reprehensible human being.
Yes, great year-end summary, and a big thanks to you Doc for all your hard work and diligence for keeping us all so entertained with it all. Kudos!
I still think my favorite “allegation” was Orly posting about Obama’s Neuro magnetic attacks on Rush Limbaugh. What a putz!
Also I want to re-post a warning to all about Orly’s site. I went there yesterday and was slammed with 2 different Trojans, so be careful! Anyone else encounter that?
I believe Agnew’s parents naturalied. I researched this last year along with VP Humphrey.
What struck me when I viewed this was above all that (assuming he is sincere) he is a lunatic.
I do realize that he is what they call “controversial” and but he did run for president; I believe he even got more votes than Bush in Iowa?
We all have crazies but like you, I don’t understand how his brand of “crazy” doesn’t get him booted off mainstream TV.
Another good wrap up Dr. C….
You should look over at the ConWeb site…good synopsis also…
The first award is for the most egregious example of bias in “news” coverage. Sure, there were a couple other possible contenders — such as Newsmax’s spectacularly ill-fated attempt to rehabilitate Bernard Kerik’s reputation and CNSNews.com’s molehill-to-mountain approach in attacking President Obama — but really, there was only possible winner: WorldNetDaily, for its increasingly desperate grip on the Obama birth certificate story.
WND more than lived up to our prediction that it would become Obama Hate Central, and nowhere was that attitude better exemplified than its obsession with Barack Obama’s birth certificate. When it wasn’t telling lie after lie or otherwise offering evasive answers to simple questions, it was publishing unverified documents that blew up in its face — like the “Kenyan birth certificate” that proved to be fake.
WND also crawled into bed with Orly Taitz, publishing embarrassingly sycophantic profiles of the birther lawyer while hiding from its readers her increasingly erratic behavior and shoddy lawyering. (More on that below.)
The census data suggests Agnew’s father was still an alien.
(It is somewhat conflicting, as it was reported Agnew’s mother was born in Virigina.)
The census is notorious for errors. I wouldn’t take this as evidence.
Speaking of notorious for errors, wikipedia says his mother was born in VA.
He’s not on mainstream TV. He’s on a cable channel, CBN. Like the Home Shopping Network. If you want, you can start your own cable channel, and if you pay the cable companies enough, they’ll carry it.
Spiro Agnew’s (Theodore Agnew) father, in the 1920 census, is listed as an alien.
Also, at the time, if you’re a woman, you could lose your citizenship if you married a foreigner.
Look on this image: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_p5Ru9m0c4Ho/S05BipCq5GI/AAAAAAAAAJ0/6cNj7fCT_Sc/s1600-h/imageCAFPWLM0.jpg
#13 is year of immigration. It states 1887. #14 is citizenship status (alien or citizen). You can clearly see an AL for Spiro Agnew. That should represent Alien. This is secondary information that Spiro Agnew’s father was an alien.
It’s still secondary information that says that Spiro Agnew’s father was an alien at the time that he was born. I’d be interested in finding State Department records that actually confirm this.
“Spiro Agnew’s father was an alien.”
We should clarify that the fake McCain B.C. wasn’t produced by McCain but came from a crackpot. Regulars at O.C.T. know this but newbies might not.
Stay tuned. This blog is in it for another year.
Thanks, Dr. C. Great 2009 summary, with some links to things I was looking for — famous moments in birther insanity.
supreme court, u s should reopen b h obama birth issue, with place of birth pin pointed.the highest court of u s a may not act as witness god/s to watch u s constitution fail when an alien or unauthorised person takes the highest position of power in usa. court may make own motion to reopen obama birth iiiissue & his eligibility to be u s a president. the rev dr kamal karna roy has advanced the demand ofcourt’s own motion to reopen cases of b h obama’s foreign or usa birth with evidences have to be examined