WND's Bashful Birthers, Part 1
WorldNetDaily had to spend months downplaying its anti-Obama birther agenda -- the organization's signature issue of the past eight years -- in order to avoid hurting Donald Trump's election chances.
By Terry Krepel
(Editor's Note: This is a two-part article. The second part, focusing on WND's renewed birtherism after Trump's election, is here.)
For most of 2016, it was a bad year to be a birther -- especially at WorldNetDaily.
It started with WND abandoning birtherism to avoid having to apply the standards it used against President Obama on Ted Cruz, since WND editor and Cruz supporter Joseph Farah would have to admit that, according to the standards WND applied to Obama, Cruz was even more ineligible to be president than he has claimed Obama is.
Then, as Donald Trump's birtherism -- which was assisted by WND -- came to the fore, WND retreated further, knowing that defending birtherism would not have helped Trump's presidential campaign. WND even stayed silent as birtherism was denounced for its racist tendencies.
But after Trump's victory, WND felt comfortable to let its birther flag fly once more, aided by the final report from the Cold Case Posse, which had to be rushed out after Sheriff Joe Arpaio, with whom WND worked to create the posse, was defeated in a re-election bid.
Let's review the year in birtherism at WND, shall we?
More Farah birther revisionism
In early July, the New York Times wrote about how Farah advised Trump behind the scenes during his birther phase in 2011. It took more than a week for Farah to respond, but his July 11 column did so -- in his usual thin-skinned way, of course. First, he took exception to the Times describing him as being "on the fringes of political life, publishing a six-part series claiming that soybeans caused homosexuality and fretting that ‘cultural Marxists’ were plotting to destroy the country":
For the record, I have never been in “political life” either on the fringes or laboring. The “six-part series” was not a series at all, but the personal obsession of one of WND’s 45 weekly columnists. That columnist died a number of years ago, so that will give you an idea of how far back the Times had to look for embarrassing stuff to write. (By the way, unlike the Times or practically any other significant newspaper or news site, these days, WND actually publishes the opinions of columnists from across the political spectrum. What a concept!)
So working in the 1990s trying to destroy the Clintons and for the past eight years trying to destroy Obama had no political motivation whatsoever? Please. And as must be pointed out every time Farah makes this claim, only two of those 45 columnists on WND's "spectrum," Bill Press and Ellen Ratner, are actually liberal, while almost every single one of the rest are on the conservative/libertarian end. That's not much of a "spectrum."
Farah continued complaining ... and spinning, making his false, opt-repeated revisionist assertion that "I never believed, said or wrote that Obama was born outside the U.S." Then, Farah wrote this:
Through the entire eligibility issue that lasted from 2008 until late 2011, the New York Times apparently never thought it was strange that Obama wouldn’t release his birth certificate or practically any other information about his life, from academic records to Harvard Law School writings to passport records to health reports. Apparently, it still has not occurred to the Old York Times that it was unusual. Of course, it could only be racism that would cause anyone to ask for such things.
Oh, bull. It was never about transparency. Otherwise, Farah would have accepted the birth certificate Obama released during the 2008 campaign. The only thing Farah cared about was turning the birth certificate into Obama's Vince Foster. If Farah really cared about transparency, he would have told his readers that all of WND's birther conspiracy theories have been discredited (and also, he would have told his readers long before now that he worked with Trump on the birther stuff).
Also: The "eligibility issue" ended in "late 2011"? Really? According to who? Farah has apparently forgotten that late 2011 was when his employee, Jerome Corsi, was working with -- and sucking up to -- Joe Arpaio to sleaze the incompetent and dishonest "cold case posse" into existence.
Farah comes off as so desperate to distance WND from its extensive involvement in the cold case posse that he's now trying to erase it from the birther timeline. Does this mean that he now accepts Obama's long-form birth certificate as legitimate after spending years trying to discredit it? Or is it just a form of expedient politics designed to get through the election? You can probably bet on the latter (as later events will demonstrate).
Farah then wrote something we shockingly agree with:
And, as for me, I can honestly say that all of the garbage they wrote about me was simply drudged up from old reports in Media Matters. You’d think with five reporters on the story, they could have come up with something really embarrassing from 20 years of publishing WND and 20 years of personally written daily columns!
He's right -- he and WND have done much more embarrassing things than the soybeans-make-you-gay stuff. Like libelously smearing a man as a drug dealer, for instance. Or those fraudulent documents Corsi flew to Kenya to get. Or portraying Obama as the Antichrist, not to mention a Nazi. Or that Farah- and Corsi-endorsed super PAC that didn't help a single candidate as it claimed it would. Or its dangerous anti-vaccine crusade. We could go on.
We're totally disappointed that the Times didn't check out ConWebWatch for the full background on WND's utter lack of credibility. Farah's continued telling of falsehoods and attempts to rewrite history, however, aren't helping the whole credibility thing.
In August, Farah was raging against Hillary Clinton's speech in which she denounced birtherism, and he was a little more eager to defend the defining story of his website:
The pattern continued through the amazing speech: “And let’s not forget Trump first gained political prominence leading the charge for the so-called ‘birthers,'” she said. Oh really? It wasn’t a Democrat apparatchik of Hillary’s who played the so-called “birther” card against Obama in 2008 Democrat primary? Of course it was. She just didn’t want to get her hands dirty by making a constitutional case on eligibility. Trump courageously did. And, as a result, Obama was forced to release what he claimed to be his “birth certificate” after refusing to do so for nearly his entire first term in office.
Nope, Joe, Hillary did not start birtherism. And it would have died with renegade Clinton supporters if right-wing Obama-haters like WND and Trump hadn't picked up the baton and so enthusiastically embraced it as a way to personally destroy Obama.
As far as Farah claiming "I don’t know anyone who claimed he was not an American citizen," he might want to check with his own website and his favorite incompetent attorney, Larry Klayman. He declared just two years ago in a lawsuit to deport Obama, in an article published by WND, that Obama "falsified documents, such as his birth certificate and Social Security number, to qualify for the privileges of American citizenship such that his citizenship, which is based on false pretenses, must be nullified."
Bob Unruh's Sept. 16 WND article on Trump's for-the-cameras declaration that "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period" refused to admit that birtherism has been discredited or even that Obama has released a valid birth certificate, rehashing tired old language that Obama released "a document he said was his Hawaii birth certificate" (the state of Hawaii says it is too) and that "The only official law enforcement investigation into the issue, authorized by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, concluded the document was fraudulent" (actually, the investigation itself is what was fraudulent).
And rather than admitting the fact that WND's birther crusade was always a partisan fraud and never about the Constitution -- reinforced when usually voluable birther Corsi appeared on a right-wing radio show after Trump's statement and refused to even discuss the issue of which he has been such a key part of for several years because it was being used to hurt his candidate, Trump, ultimately huffing that "I’m done with the topic until Obama’s out of office" -- Unruh pivoted to the new Trump-approved talking point: it was all Hillary's idea in the first place and that birtherism is somehow Obama's fault.
WND editor Joseph Farah's first column after Trump's statement was not about said statement but, rather, referenced a statement a week and a half earlier by Ben Carson that Trump should apologize for being a birther in order to appeal to black voters. Farah asserted that Carson was " just plain wrong" to say that -- "Who believes support from black voters hinges in any way on this question? Who believes that Donald Trump or anyone else who raised the question of Obama’s constitutional eligibility did so because they were motivated by racism?" -- then insisted that birtherism is no longer relevant "with Obama’s term ending Jan. 20, 2017, and the American people faced with a choice between two candidates both of whom questioned Obama’s eligibility, the first being Hillary’s campaign in 2008?"
Farah went on to assert that "there were and are legitimate questions about Obama’s constitutional eligibility that have been swept under the rug one more part of our nation’s foundation of the rule of law chipped away forever." He didn't mention the fact that he had the chance to further explore those questions with Cruz but chickened out instead.
Farah finally addressed Trump's statement in his Sept. 18 column -- sort of. His main job was to pivot the blame away from Trump (and, by extension, WND), insisting that the honor of being the first birther "belongs to one person and one person alone Barack Obama," because of a 1990s-era book publisher's bio in which Obama "billed himself as having been born in Kenya." But that bio didn't surface until 2012, by which time WND had been hardcore birthers for years, and Obama didn't provide that information to the publisher.
With that falsehood as a setup, Farah then shifted full gear into doing what he does best -- lie. Such as his assertion that "Obama refused to release his birth certificate during his entire first term in office." In fact, Obama released a birth certificate before the 2008 election; WND simply refused to recognize it as real. And the second certificate was, in fact, released during his first term, in 2011. Farah then claimed that the long-form certificate "has never been authenticated as genuine." False -- as former cold case posse member Brian Reilly has pointed out, the state of Hawaii has officially verified the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate.
And then Farah was off to his beloved conspiracy land, ranging about "the voluminous amount of evidence of a cover-up" and that he "was vilified, called a racist, lampooned, besmirched, called a conspiracy theorist and worse" for trying to "establish that Obama met the minimal constitutional litmus test for eligibility."
Funny, Farah never felt similarly compelled to establish that his beloved Ted Cruz met the minimal constitutional litmus test for eligibility, even though by the overly narrow definitions of "natural born citizen" WND has pushed over the years, Cruz is even more ineligible to be president than Obama.
WND ignores birther racism claims
WND used to be very sensitive to the charge that birtherism was motivated by racism. In 2009, for instance, Farah huffed that it was a "smear" to claim that it's racist to say Obama "should be held to the same standard as previous presidents and his opponent with regard to establishing constitutional eligibility to serve," adding, "They think their job is to label anyone who doesn’t close their eyes, lie down and enjoy the rape of America as a racist." He then declared, "I will never be intimidated into ceasing to stand up for the Constitution and for America." (Though Farah apparently was intimidated into doing so when it came to applying Ted Cruz to WND's previously stated birther standard.)
Farah followed up with a column painfully conceding that Clinton won the debate ... but no mention whatsoever of the debate's birther discussion.
Then, WND's Jerome Corsi -- another WND staffer who personally advised Trump on birther stuff, but like Schilling and Kant failed to disclose that in their reporting on the debate -- spent an article spinning hard for Trump, but only mention of the debate's birther discussion came almost as an aside: "Moreover, Trump noted, Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008 started the birther controversy by releasing to media an anonymous letter alleging Obama was not born in Hawaii, as well as the first photos of Obama in Kenya wearing traditional Muslim garb."
Corsi got the first part wrong; the UK Telegraph article to which he links to back up his claim that Clinton "started the birther controversy" in 2008 specifically states -- in the very first paragraph -- that "perennial local candidate and litigant" Andy Martin was pushing proto-birther claims in 2004. Nor does the Telegraph article state that the Clinton campaign released the "anonymous letter alleging Obama was not born in Hawaii" -- it states the letter was "circulated by supporters of Mrs Clinton," not the campaign itself.
It's also strange that Corsi was also complaining about the Clinton campaign releasing the photo of "Obama in Kenya wearing traditional Muslim garb" (again, the article to which Corsi links notes that the Clinton campaign denied distributing the photo), given how many times WND has used that photo over the years to illustrate its anti-Obama "journalism." Corsi himself declared in 2008 that the photo "raised questions about Obama’s links to Kenya, which has Muslim neighbors on several fronts, and was home to Obama’s father." And as recently as July, WND was touting how "Bill O’Reilly shared photos of Barack Obama in traditional Islamic dress on his program." (And like his WND cohorts, Corsi doesn't disclose the critical role he played in helping Trump push birtherism.)
A few days later, Vox highlighted a survey conducted by political scientist Philip Klinkner, which found that a stronger belief in birtherism correlated tightly with increasing levels of racial resentment. Klinkner wrote: “Among those with the lowest levels of racial resentment, party had little influence as both Democrats and Republicans had a low probability of believing in birtherism. As racial resentment increased, however, the probability of birtherism increased for both Democrats and Republicans, but more among the latter.” Vox added: "So an all-white Fox News panel may disagree, but birtherism really was driven, at least in part, by race and racial attitudes."
WND stayed silent about the report. Was it because WND conceded the racism aspect? (WND does like to fan the flames of racial resentment, after all.) Or is it just trying to shut up about birtherism in order to help chief birther Donald Trump get elected? (WND didn't really want to talk about it after the subject came up during the first presidential debate.)
But you know what they say: silence equals assent.
WND finally weighs in on Cruz eligibility
After months of actively avoiding the issue of Ted Cruz was eligible to run for president -- which led Farah to abandon birtherism entirely -- WND finally weighed in on the issue, months after it would have mattered. In an Oct. 16 article, an anonymous WND writer speculated about a proposed Democratic plan during the primary, revealed in the stolen Wikileaks emails, to declare that it would not challenge Cruz's eligibility:
But, was that the real story or the whole story?
Astute birther scholars will notice that this anonymous WND writer not only repeated an irrelevant claim, he or she also moved the birther goalposts.
The statement that "there were legal questions raised" because of the age of Obama's mother at the time of his birth is true -- but it leaves out the fact that this clause only applies if the child was born outside the United States. Since Obama was born in Hawaii, and WND has never proven otherwise, it doesn't matter how old his mother is -- Obama is a citizen.
The insistence that Cruz is a citizen because his mother "had long been established as an American citizen" is a change in position from the one it had long promoted: that both parents must be citizens in order to confer citizenship on the child.
Of course, WND doesn't explain the reason it wouldn't address Cruz's eligibility at that time: because Joseph Farah, Jerome Corsi and crew knew that if they defended Cruz -- since, again, he was even more ineligible than Obama since, unlike Obama, he was born outside the U.S. -- they would also have to prove Obama was eligible as well. That refusal simply proved that WND's obsession with Obama's eligibility was never about the Constitution and always about trying to personally destroy Obama.
So, it apparently took six-plus months for WND to figure out a defense of Cruz's eligibility that managed to also keep Obama's eligibility in question -- and it's still dishonest.