An Exercise In Futility: Battling the Birthers

David Weigel has boldly waded into the right-wing world of Birther conspiracy theories in an attempt to explain how something that started out on the far-flung reaches of the movement has slowly picked up steam and started working its way into the mainstream of conservative commentary:

Six months into Obama’s presidency, after scores of embarrassing legal defeats, and even after tussles between the attorneys who’ve turned frivolous lawsuits about the president’s citizenship into full-time jobs, the cottage industry of conspiracy theories about the president’s birth shows no signs of disappearing. The theories have found a home in talk radio and on conservative web sites such as Free Republic and WorldNetDaily. Conspiracy theorists are increasingly sending letters to their local papers, embarrassing members of Congress at town hall meetings, and hounding Hill staffers about challenges to the president’s citizenship.

As expected, since this piece went up this morning Weigel has been “getting the usual truckloads of mail attacking” it and is doing what he can to set the record straight, but admitting that it’s nearly impossible because “these people will say anything, no matter how implausible.”

A good example of this showed up today in WorldNetDaily which has been, as Weigel noted, among the websites most obsessed with this issue.  It actually started yesterday when WND discovered a “letter purportedly sent by Obama to Honolulu’s Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children in which the commander in chief outright declares his birth at the facility.”

WND quickly concluded that the letter was not legitimate, as “the image online is not a picture of an actual paper letter, but is merely a computer-created likeness of a letter” and was really just “a pieced-together likeness of a letter using HTML code.” And then the hospital removed the letter from its website, which of course, that set off a new round of conspiracy theorizing, with Birthers demanding to know where this purported letter came from and where the original copy was while WND started threatening “the hospital that the FBI and United States Secret Service said the matter could potentially lead to criminal prosecution were the letter determined to be fraudulent.”

So today Keala Peters, director of marketing and communications for Hawaii Pacific Health, which runs the hospital tried to set the record straight, providing photos of the original letter from Obama and explaining the facts behind it:

Peters says Kapi’olani actually has a reproduction of the “original letter” on display at the hospital.

“The original is something that we treasure, and we know that it came from Mr. Obama,” she said, explaining only that the paper document was personally presented to them by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, who read its contents – straying at times from the actual text – at the hospital’s Centennial Dinner Jan. 24, the same day the letter in question is dated.

Regarding the precise whereabouts of the “original” Kapi’olani birth letter from Obama, Peters opted not to comment, saying “it’s not anything we want to be damaged.”


WND asked her why the hospital simply didn’t post a scanned image of the paper letter on its site to begin with instead of the HTML version.

“We did that because we didn’t want people to take it from the Web and use it for purposes other than for what it was intended,” she responded. “I’m sorry it created suspicion on your part, but it was not our intention.”

When asked why Kapi’olani suddenly yanked the letter off its website after displaying it online for close to half a year, Peters acknowledged removing it “not because it doesn’t exist, but because it was becoming a distraction.”

“The inquiries about it became a distraction in running our hospital,” she said.

So Kapi’olani didn’t post the original letter because they didn’t want people (Birthers?) misusing it which caused the hospital to become inundated with demands from Birthers demanding proof of its authenticity, which then lead the hospital to pull it from its website, which in turn just set off even more fevered round of Birther conspiracy theorizing.