Blaming the Media for the Birthers

Created: July 28, 2009 14:53 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

Bill Pascoe, who worked for both of the luckless Republicans who ran against Barack Obama in the 2004 Illinois U.S. Senate race, tells his party to distance itself from the “birthers” already. It’s worth reading, but this assertion rings false.

Am I the only one to notice that mainstream media attention to the “Birthers” has picked up in recent weeks — and that this increased attention is coincident to the turn in Obama’s approval ratings?

A search of The Washington Post web site, for instance, on the term “Birther” yields as its oldest hit this one, from July 6; a search of The New York Times, though, shows first mention of the term on July 22.

Far be it from me to assume one is the cause of the other — as faithful readers know, I do my best to avoid falling into the post hoc, ergo propter hoc trap — but, still, it is an interesting coincidence.

I can’t speak to discussions inside those newspapers’ newsrooms, but I have been following this, err, story for a year, and before the blow-up this month, there were several bursts of “birther” attention whenever these people got into a courtroom to make their case. And searching for the term “birther” isn’t the way to check this.

For example, in December 2008 a New Jersey lawyer got the Supreme Court to read a lawsuit about Obama’s “natural born” status and consider it for the 2009 docket. That generated a lot of attention, including cable news and a column by Dana Milbank. But the high court passed on the case and America moved on. At that point, President-elect Barack Obama was riding on a wave of goodwill, so it’s hard to suggest the media was covering up for him. I’d track the current “birther boom” to the mid-July lawsuit filed by Orly Taitz on behalf of Maj. Stefan F. Cook. That got, among other coverage, a national heads-up from Sean Hannity on his Fox News show.

Last Monday I noticed a July 10 YouTube video of a woman in red howling at Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) about the birth certificate. I posted it at 8:57 a.m. The Drudge Report posted it at some point between 9:23 a.m. and 9:33 a.m. (You can see in Drudge’s archives that it was not up yet 26 minutes after my original post.) So I guess I started this current wave of birthermania. Sorry, Bill Pascoe!

More seriously, it’s impossible to imagine these people getting attention from mainstream media reporters if they didn’t get members of Congress to endorse their agenda with things like Rep. Bill Posey’s (R-Fla.) “birther bill,” or get Republicans at the state level to join onto to lawsuits against Obama, as several Tennessee Republican legislators have. The media isn’t forcing them to do this.

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