Thursday’s New York Times lead editorial, “A Certificate of Embarrassment,” dealt with President Obama authorizing the State of Hawaii to release his long-form birth certificate. The editorial writers commit the same error its media reporter Brian Stelter did, falsely stating the rumor “was originally promulgated by fringe figures of the radical right,” when in fact it was initially circulated via email by Hillary Clinton supporters in April 2008, as noted by Politico on April 22.
With sardonic resignation, President Obama, an eminently rational man, stared directly into political irrationality on Wednesday and released his birth certificate to history. More than halfway through his term, the president felt obliged to prove that he was a legitimate occupant of the Oval Office. It was a profoundly low and debasing moment in American political life.
The disbelief fairly dripped from Mr. Obama as he stood at the West Wing lectern. People are out of work, American soldiers are dying overseas and here were cameras to record him stating that he was born in a Hawaii hospital. It was particularly galling to us that it was in answer to a baseless attack with heavy racial undertones.
To suggest the birth certificate was a distraction from Obama’s real work is an odd defense, given the president that same day attended three fundraisers and taped an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s show. Obama also notoriously spent ten minutes on national TV discussing his NCAA basketball tournament brackets back in March, but waited ten days to tell the American people why he had gone to war in Libya.
Then the editors falsely stated the “birther” rumor was “originally promulgated by fringe figures of the radical right,” when in fact it was first circulated via email by Hillary Clinton supporters in April 2008.
So it will not quiet the most avid attackers. Several quickly questioned its authenticity. That’s because the birther question was never really about citizenship; it was simply a proxy for those who never accepted the president’s legitimacy, for a toxic mix of reasons involving ideology, deep political anger and, most insidious of all, race. It was originally promulgated by fringe figures of the radical right, but mainstream Republican leaders allowed it to simmer to satisfy those who are inflamed by Mr. Obama’s presence in the White House.
Next, Times editors played the race card:
It is inconceivable that this campaign to portray Mr. Obama as the insidious “other” would have been conducted against a white president.