A couple of emails arrived recently dealing with FactCheck.org photos of Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
The original FactCheck article with photos appeared August of 2008, a couple of months after the Obama campaign released a scanned image to a few news organizations. The scan didn’t clearly show the raised seal, had the certificate number blacked out, and didn’t show the back of the form, leading critics to claim that a paper Certification of Live Birth (COLB) didn’t physically exist. FactCheck sent a couple of staffers over to the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago to take pictures.
As with every new piece of evidence that should reasonably raise confidence in Barack Obama’s origins, birthers just come up with more imagined ways it could be false, and the anti-Obama propagandists figure out how to smear folks they don’t like, in this case FactCheck. The big lie about FactCheck is that Barack Obama used to be on the board of FactCheck (or some variant of that story). Barack Obama was on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a local initiative funded by the Annenberg foundation to improve education in a few schools in Chicago. FactCheck.org is funded partly by another division of the Annenberg megacharity, the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. To get an idea of how much a tie this is, ask yourself how close you are to your third cousin. (Did I mention that Annenberg donated money to the McCain campaign in 2008?) I include this because I saw this smear just this morning at the Washington Examiner in an April 3 op ed piece by Matt Patterson, who wrote:
Not so fast. Factcheck.org. bills itself as “a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania,” with funding largely derived from “an endowment created in 1993 by the Annenberg Foundation … and a 1995 grant by the Annenberg Foundation.”
Obama was famously a founding board member of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, also a project of the Annenberg Foundation. The connection is strong enough, in my mind, to raise reasonable questions about the objectivity of factcheck.org in matters regarding Obama.
But back to the emails. The first alerted me to an article on the Post & Email blog, where it is reported that as of April 3, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. EDT, the FactCheck images of the COLB had been removed. As of 12:27 AM on April 4, they are back up. This is not the first time those images have gone missing. I found the links had gone bad back in November of 2010. I sent FactCheck a note and the pictures reappeared. What I have learned, though, is that if I find something important on the Internet, I should make a copy just in case.
Another statement came courtesy of Deep Birther from a comment at the Washington Examiner:
The other major problem with this self-declared factchecking site is that it was caught manipulating the facts. Embedded data in their pictures as originally posted showed that they were taken March 12, 2008 … three months before Obama publicly dislosed [sic] his jpg … and FIVE MONTHS before factlack dot org said they took the photos. The EXIF data was scrubbed from the images to hide this discrepancy.
There are FactCheck images on the Internet with the March 12 date in EXIF data (see following). Of course, one can add EXIF data as easily as one can remove it. My December, 2008, FactCheck copies don’t have EXIF data.
It seems barely plausible, though, that those photos were really taken at 10:41 PM. My speculation is that the camera’s clock wasn’t set, resulting in a spurious date. FactCheck may have erased the EXIF data after discovering that it was wrong and causing problems.
It almost seems like April 3 is the “attack the FactCheck images” day coordinated by birther activists. Anything, I guess, to take the spotlight off Donald Trump.
In a phone conversation this morning with Brooks Jackson, Director of FactCheck.org, I asked him about the various questions discussed in this article. He said that when FactCheck.org moved from its former content management system to a WordPress-based site, a number of media links became invalid and this apparently went unnoticed for some time. When FactCheck was made aware of the problem, it was corrected. When asked about the internal dates on the Obama certificate images, he said that the camera used to take the photos did not have its date set correctly, and pointed out that FactCheck had reported this previously.