NBC Wades Into 'Spreading Lies about President Obama's...U.S. Citizenship'

Daring to go where only cable has gone so far, Wednesday's NBC Nightly News waded into the rampant claims that President Barack Obama -- though he was born in a U.S. state and to a mother who was a U.S. citizen, so even if he were born in Kenya he'd still be a U.S. citizen -- is somehow really not one. Anchor Brian Williams didn't hide his disdain, teasing the newscast: “Spreading lies about President Obama's birthplace and about his U.S. citizenship. Who's doing it and why?”

(Too bad Williams didn't show such concern for wild allegations in late 2004 and into 2005 that President Bush was illegitimate when colleague Keith Olbermann spent months using his MSNBC show to hype claims Ohio voting machines were manipulated to deny John Kerry's win which would have given him the presidency.)

After video of a woman in Delaware shouting at a Congressman over Obama's citizenship, Williams fretted: “A lot of us live with this issue; we get e-mails, we get asked about it.” Exaggerating the extent of the attention the issue gets on the right, reporter Pete Williams declared: “It hasn't gone away, becoming a staple of blogs and conservative talk radio.” He soon asserted that “legal scholars -- liberal and conservative alike -- are in widespread agreement that Barack Obama is fully qualified.”

Outlining the evidence, Williams noted how “Obama's campaign long ago released his birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii after it joined the union,” how the state has the original and how “the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper faxed us its birth announcements from August 13, 1961, noting that a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama.”

Pete Williams noted how “one conservative talk show host considers the citizenship issue frivolous.” In a soundbite, Michael Medved sensibly pointed out: “We are just right now getting real traction on some of the issues regarding President Obama, his expansion of government, his spending, this, this is resonating with the American people. This is a terrible distraction. And it makes us look crazy and angry and fringy and irresponsible.”

Not sure I've ever heard “fringy” used before in a news story.

To conclude, Pete Williams recalled how citizenship questions have been raised by other candidates, but ones who didn't take office: “John McCain, born in the Panama Canal Zone, Barry Goldwater born in Arizona when it was still a territory and Mitt Romney's father, George, born in Mexico.”

From the Wednesday, July 22 NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: We have a piece of videotape to show you tonight that's starting to receive wide circulation. It's the question that won't seem to go away for President Barack Obama even though it's been answered. The issue of the President's birth place, and American citizenship, has become a kind of conspiracy theory. This is what happened when Republican Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware called on a woman in the audience at a recent town meeting.
WOMAN: Why are you people ignoring his birth certificate? (cheers and applause) He is not an American citizen! He is a citizen of Kenya. I am American. My father worked, fought in World War II with the greatest generation in the Pacific theater for this country, and I don't want this flag to change. I want my country back! (cheers and applause)

CASTLE: If you're referring to the President there, he is a citizen of the United States. (boos) He is a citizen of the United States.

WOMAN: I think we should all stand up and give Pledge of Allegiance to that wonderful flag.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: ...A lot of us live with this issue; we get e-mails, we get asked about it. Our  Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams is going to join in on this conversation from Washington. Pete, no matter how untrue this comes up at a lot of public gatherings now?

PETE WILLIAMS: ...It hasn't gone away, becoming a staple of blogs and conservative talk radio.

AUDIO OF LOU DOBBS ON THE RADIO: All the President of the United States has to do is produce a birth certificate.

AUDIO OF RUSH LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama has yet to have to prove he is a citizen.

PETE WILLIAMS And lawsuits challenging the President's citizenship have been filed in and thrown out of courts around the country. But legal scholars -- liberal and conservative alike -- are in widespread agreement that Barack Obama is fully qualified. The Constitution says only a “natural born citizen” can be President. And though the Supreme Court has never said exactly what that means, legal authorities agree that at the very least it covers any one actually born inside the United States.

Obama's campaign long ago released his birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii after it joined the union. State officials say Hawaiian law blocks release of the document signed by doctors the day he was born, but issued a statement saying they have “personally seen and verified” it. And the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper faxed us its birth announcements from August 13, 1961, noting that a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama. One conservative talk show host considers the citizenship issue frivolous.

MICHAEL MEDVED: We are just right now getting real traction on some of the issues regarding President Obama, his expansion of government, his spending, this, this is resonating with the American people. This is a terrible distraction. And it makes us look crazy and angry and fringy and irresponsible.

PETE WILLIAMS: Similar questions have dogged other presidential candidates. John McCain, born in the Panama Canal Zone, Barry Goldwater born in Arizona when it was still a territory and Mitt Romney's father, George, born in Mexico. And in 1881, when Chester A. Arthur became President, his political opponents questioned whether he was actually born in Vermont or somewhat further north -- in Canada. Brian?

BRIAN WILLIAMS: So many conspiracy theories, so little time.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center