Saturday, September 17, 2016

Birther Movement: Old Lie with a New Twist


The Birther movement refuses to join such absurdities as phrenology and astrology in the trashcan of history.  Birthers believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not qualified to be president of the United States since the Constitutional requirement for a president is that the person has to be born in the United States.

That issue should have dissolved once Obama produced his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii.   However, that didn’t silence the lunatic fringe.  The outcry wasn’t even muted when fact-checkers pointed out that Sen. John McCain, Obama’s 2008 opponent, was born in Panama.  Or Sen. Ted Cruz, a 2012 and 2016 opponent, was born in Canada.

Obama birth certificate
Cruz went so far as to insist that being born of an American parent anywhere made the baby American, despite all legal evidence to the contrary.  Besides, as Cruz, a birther, never hesitates to ignore, Obama’s mother is American.

Finally, the reality that Obama leaves office in January at the end of two terms has also failed to quell the birther claims.  It seems pretty late in the day to continue such nonsense.

Trump as a Birther
The absurd claim has rattled on because Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has encouraged it long before he actually ran for office.  As a candidate, he didn’t correct a speaker at a New Hampshire political rally who called Obama a non-American Muslim even though Obama belongs to a Southern Baptist church and has been Christian his entire life although his father was Muslim.  After all, Trump has been a major proponent of the Birther movement.

Now, finally, he has recanted.  Obama is really American.  We can all rejoice.  However, being Trump, he can’t resist adding a lie.  He claims that Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent for the White House, started the movement.  That’s untrue.

According to Politifact, an independent website that examines political claims: “There is no record that Clinton herself or anyone within her campaign ever advanced the charge that Obama was not born in the United States.  No journalist who investigated this ever found a connection to anyone in the Clinton organization.”

Moreover, if true, the Trump would be claiming he and Clinton actually agreed on something.  That’s another lie.

So how did the Birther movement start?  Supposedly, according to a published account, a Clinton volunteer in Texas, Linda Starr, initiated the rumor and then convinced an attorney to pursue it.  A state Federal Court refused to hear the argument, and the appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Clinton was not involved, nor was any member of her staff.  

Actually, Clinton completely rejected the claim.  Asked about it by CNN’s Don Lemon, she replied:  "That is – no. That is so ludicrous, Don. You know, honestly, I just believe that, first of all, it’s totally untrue, and secondly, you know, the president and I have never had any kind of confrontation like that.  You know, I have been blamed for nearly everything; that was a new one to me."

Of course, lying is not new for Trump.  It allows him to deflect animosity toward him onto someone else.

The truth be damned.

An old journalism adage is that a correction never catches up with the original story.  Trump is counting on that during his continual effort to ravage the truth.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University and an M.A. in communication from Kent State University.  You can reach him at 

He is the author of the famed novel The Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus as well as The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

In addition, you can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion, at

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