Was Hillary the Original “Birther”? (Take a Guess.)

This afternoon, MSNBC is broadcasting a town hall meeting with John Kasich that is being held in Lima (named after the city in Peru but pronounced like the bean), a small city in west-central Ohio where I live.

Because my political views are apparently not as masochistic as they are ardent, I have been switching between that town hall, the men’s basketball conference tournament games, and CNN, where I happened to catch Poppy Harlow interviewing Matt Borgas, the executive director of the Republican party in Ohio.

When Harlow asked him why the other candidates, including John Kasich, had not focused on and challenged Donald Trump’s extremism until this past week, Borgas non-answered that some of Trump’s most extreme positions have their source in Democratic, not Republican, politics. Specifically, Borgas claimed that Birtherism originated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Obama in 2008.

To her credit, Harlow very pointedly challenged him to substantiate that claim, and when Borgas stated simply that it is “widely known fact,” she remonstrated with him that it was disingenuous, at best, to assert that the legitimizing of Trump’s Birtherism lies with the Democrats and not with his own party, which has never explicitly rejected it and which has, in fact, been very willing to exploit it.

Since I had never heard the claim that Borgas asserted is a “widely known fact,” I did a Google search. The first item produced by the search is from FactCheck.org, and the article by Robert Farley opens:

“Two Republican presidential candidates claim the so-called ‘birther’ movement originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008. While it’s true that some of her ardent supporters pushed the theory, there is no evidence that Clinton or her campaign had anything to do with it.

“In an interview on June 29, Sen. Ted Cruz said ‘the whole birther thing was started by the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008,’ and earlier this year, Donald Trump claimed ‘Hillary Clinton wanted [Obama’s] birth certificate. Hillary is a birther.’

“Neither Cruz nor Trump presented any evidence that Clinton or anyone on her campaign ever questioned Obama’s birthplace, demanded to see his birth certificate, or otherwise suggested that Obama was not a “natural born citizen” eligible to serve as president.

“For those unfamiliar with the controversy over Obama’s birthplace, it refers to those who contend that Obama was born in Kenya and ineligible to be president.

“At FactCheck.org, we have written about the issue of Obama’s birthplace on multiple occasions—indeed we were the first media organization to hold his birth certificate in our hot little hands and vouch for the authenticity of it. But facts have done little to squelch the conspiracy theories that continue to bounce around online.”

And the article closes:

“But none of those stories suggests any link between the Clinton campaign, let alone Clinton herself, and the advocacy of theories questioning Obama’s birth in Hawaii.

“One of the authors of the Politico story, Byron Tau, now a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, told FactCheck.org via email that ‘we never found any links between the Clinton campaign and the rumors in 2008.’

“The other coauthor of the Politico story, Ben Smith, now the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, said in a May 2013 interview on MSNBC that the conspiracy theories traced back to ‘some of [Hillary Clinton’s] passionate supporters,’ during the final throes of Clinton’s 2008 campaign. But he said they did not come from ‘Clinton herself or her staff.’

“Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said Cruz’s claim is false. ‘The Clinton campaign never suggested that President Obama was not born here,’ Schwerin wrote to us in an email.

“It is certainly interesting, and perhaps historically and politically relevant, that ‘birther’ advocacy may have originated with supporters of Hillary Clinton—especially since many view it as an exclusively right-wing movement. But whether those theories were advocated by Clinton and/or her campaign or simply by Clinton ‘supporters’ is an important distinction. Candidates are expected to be held accountable for the actions of their campaigns. Neither Cruz nor Trump, whose campaign did not respond to our request for backup material, provides any compelling evidence that either Clinton or her campaign had anything to do with starting the so-called birther movement.”

Farley’s complete article is available at: http://www.factcheck.org/2015/07/was-hillary-clinton-the-original-birther/.

I suppose that this billboard must have been left up for months after the 2008 Democratic primary concluded:

Birther Billboard

And an interesting, more recent permutation on the assertion of “widely known fact” is suggested by this still image from a CNN broadcast:

Obama on Blame for Trumpism

 

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