Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lou Dobbs, the "Birther" Meme, and the Death of Investigative Journalism in the Left Wing Traditional Media

CNN President Jon Klein wants CNN program host Lou Dobbs to drop any further investigations of the facts surrounding President Obama's failure to produce an original hard copy version of his birth certificate. Mr. Klein seems intent on labeling his own employee with the false and misleading "birther" meme.

A "meme" is a term used to describe a phrase or word, much like a bumper sticker, which can be spread virally in the interconnected world of the modern media that instantly communicates a message. A phrase by itself is not particularly significant, but when it is spread virally it can be used to stop political discourse.

Inserting "memes" into the flow of news information so they will go viral is a common tactic used by left wing propagandists employed as "hosts" at cable networks such as MSNBC and CNN. The term "teabagger", for instance, is a pejorative "meme" inserted into the political discourse by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, and spread by colleagues David Shuster and Keith Olbermann, as well as CNN's Anderson Cooper.

The "birther" meme has been around since before the 2008 election, and is used to create the impression that anyone who asks any questions about President Obama's failure to produce a "Certificate of Live Birth" is a right wing nutcase. And while it's true that several gadflies who follow the issue, such as Phillip Berg and Dr. Orly Taitz, have little credibility due to their insistence on presenting "evidence" of a Kenyan birth that is thoroughly unreliable, it is a great disservice to attach the pejorative "birther" meme to legitimate journalistic investigations, such as those conducted by Mr. Dobbs.

Earlier this week Klein sent Dobbs an email which, according to Talking Points Memo said the following:

"It seems this story is dead" Klein wrote, "because anyone who still is not convinced doesn't really have a legitimate beef."

You can read the full Talking Points Memo story here.

Klein's argument seems to follows this logic:

1. State of Hawaii Department of Health spokesperson Janice Okubo confirmed in a June 6, 2009 interview with the Honolulu Star Bulletin reporter June Watanabe that all hard copy originals were transferred to a paperless electronic record system in 2001. Watanabe's June 6 story stated the following:

Okubo explained that the Health Department went paperless in 2001.

"At that time, all information for births from 1908 (on) was put into electronic files for consistent reporting," she said.

Information about births is transferred electronically from hospitals to the department.

"The electronic record of the birth is what (the Health Department) now keeps on file in order to provide same-day certified copies at our help window for most requests," Okubo said.


You can read the full article here.

(Note: In his email to Dobbs, Klein states unequivocally that all hard copy birth certificates kept on file by the State of Hawaii were discarded in 2001 when the state went paperless. However, Watanabe's story does not address what became of these original records. While it is possible that the policy of the state of Hawaii was, in fact, to discard (and dispose of) the original hard copy birth certificates, Klein has no evidence to support that contention. While it is true that the old hard copies were no longer used as part of the official records of the state, Klein ASSUMES that the original documents were discarded. Perhaps so. But perhaps they were not discarded, and were instead stored in a physical warehouse.)

2. The hard copy document of Obama's "Certification of Live Birth" released by the campaign was an authentic document, verified by relevant state officials in an October 31, 2008 statement.
(Note that a "Certification of Live Birth" is quite different from a "Certificate of Live Birth". A "Certificate of Live Birth" is the original long form document signed by the attending physician at the time of birth. A "Certification of Birth" is a short form document produced, in theory based on the verification of the data provided in the original "Certificate of Live Birth".)

It's hard to say whether Klein's statement that the matter should therefore be closed is made out of bias, laziness, or a simple desire to obfuscate, but a myriad of investigative questions on the topic remain. If CNN were actually a legitimate journalistic organization, Mr. Klein would not be pressuring Mr. Dobbs to drop his investigation.

Here are several compelling reasons why Mr. Dobbs should continue his journalistic efforts on this topic:

On October 31, 2008, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the Secretary of Health for the State of Hawaii, issued the following statement:

Therefore, I as Director of Health for the State of Hawaii, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawai‘i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.

You can see a copy of that original statement here

On November 3, 2008, I emailed a list of twelve clarifying questions about that statement to Janice Okubo, spokesperson for the State of Hawaii Department of Health, and to Dr. Fukino. Neither Ms. Okubo nor Dr. Fukino ever responded to those questions, nine of which I've included below:

1. Did you personally view an actual physical copy of the long form original birth certificate from August 4, 1961 signed by the attending physician at a Honolulu hospital?

2. What was the name of the hospital ?

3. What was the name of the attending physician ?

4. Besides holding an actual hard copy of the original August 4, 1961 birth certificate signed by the attending physician at a specific hospital in Honolulu, are there any other means by which, as you say "the state of Hawaii can have Barack Obama's original birth certificate on record in accordance with the state's policies and procedures regarding maintaining "original birth certificates on record"?

5. Was the original birth certificate on record submitted as part of the 1911 Hawaii Birth Certificate program, which allowed parents of children residing in Hawaii who were over one year of age to submit alternate birth documentation to the Department of Health and still be called "an original birth certificate."?

6. On what date was the original birth certificate on file registered ?

7. Did Senator Obama personally authorize Dr. Fukino and Dr. Onaka to view his "original birth certificate on record." ? If so, when and how ?

8. Did Senator Obama personally authorize Dr. Fukino and Dr. Onaka to issue the statement of October 31, 2008 ? If so, when and how ?

9. Have Dr. Fukino and Dr. Onaka had any communication with Senator Obama or did they meet with him in person on any occasion in the last 30 days or in the last year ? If so, were those communications or meetings negotiations related to statements to be made about his birth certificate ?

Based on Ms. Okubo's June 6, 2009 interview with the Honolulu Star Bulletin, it would appear that the answer to Question 1 above is that no, Dr. Fukino did not view an actual physical copy of President Obama's long form original "Certificate of Live Birth" at any time. To my knowledge, this June 6, 2009 interview of Ms. Okubo was the first time that any spokesperson from the State of Hawaii Department of Health officially acknowledged that it no longer maintains hard copy records of original "Certificates of Live Birth" as part of its officially authorized records documentation, verification, and creation process.

The remaining eight original questions remain unanswered. I would add the following eight new questions to the list of questions I would like to see answered:


1. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, who issued the finely parsed official statement of October 31, 2008 which left the impression that she had seen the hard copy of the original birth certificate:
Why did you not simply and honestly declare in your October 31, 2008 statement that you had not seen the hard copy of the original birth certificate, and that your statement verifying the authenticity of the "Certification of Live Birth" was based upon a forensic review of the process by which the data about President Obama's birth in the State of Hawaii's birth records was included in the data base, and that this process was consistent with the state's policies and procedures?

I note that almost all contemporaneous news reports used the language of Dr. Fukino's statement to report incorrectly that she had actually seen a physical copy of the original "Certificate of Live Birth" as issued by the hospital and signed by the attending physician. Dr. Fukino did nothing to correct this widely reported false assumption.

2. For President Obama: You have publicly stated that you were born at what was then called Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital, these days known officially as Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children, in Honolulu. Officials at that hospital state that they maintain original hard copy and microfiche copies of all birth records back to the 1950's. In order to comply with your promises of "transparency" will you now authorize the hospital to release their copy of your original birth certificate?

3. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino: Can you make public all electronic records you used and the documentation process you went through to confirm that President Obama's birth records were kept in the State of Hawaii birth records data base in accordance with the state's policies and procedures?

4. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino: Will you request that officials at Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children now transfer a copy of their original records related to the birth of President Obama to you, and will you publicly release those records?

5. For officials at Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children: Will you send a letter to President Obama, requesting him to authorize you to publicly release his original birth records, as it is a matter in the public interest?

6. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino: Can you confirm with one hundred percent certainty that the original birth certificate of Barack Obama upon which your electronic records were based was in fact a "Certificate of Live Birth" issued by Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children, and not a substitute certificate submitted within a year of the actual birth, as allowed for by Hawaiian Statues which were in place from 1959 to 1978?

7. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino: Were the original documents of birth records held by the Department of Health discarded in 2001 or were they placed in a warehouse? If they were placed in a warehouse, can they be found and produced? If they can be found and produced, will you produce and make public the original "Certificate of Live Birth" of President Barack Obama?

8. For Maya Soetero-Ng, half-sister of President Obama: Is it factually true that you were born in Indonesia in 1970, and were subsequently issued a "Certification of Live Birth" by the State of Hawaii's Department of Health, and that this document is of exactly the same type and form as the "Certification of Live Birth" that the same department has issued to your half-brother, President Obama?

I, for one, would like to know the answers to these questions, and hope that Mr. Dobbs will continue his investigations until we all receive these answers. Mr. Dobbs does not deserve to be falsely labeled as a "birther". A more accurate description of him would be simply this: he's an investigative journalist and a transparency champion.

9 comments:

vrieck101 said...

I would like to know why Obama does not put this to rest and produce his original birth certificate. It simply defies logic why he would not do this immediately. Which is why I am now skeptical about this. It just does not make any common sense to withhold this information.

Anonymous said...

I know the moderation light is lit so thank you for the statement: " President Obma has failed to show his " certificate of live birth" ".Now does this mean in 07 Ha. could not have issued a colb, and or never did; and that issueing one now is a physical immposibility backed by political muscle; in that there is now no possibility of producing one; what proof links internet images with Ha documents? Where is the actual colb sent by Ha. in the first place. These being rehtorical thank you for the article.

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Hawaii has issued a legitimate "Certification of Live Birth" to President Obama that complies with the state's statutes.

The argument here, however, is that only a contemporaneous "Certificate of Live Birth" can demonstrate beyond any doubt that the President was in fact born in Hawaii.

Doug said...

"The argument here, however, is that only a contemporaneous "Certificate of Live Birth" can demonstrate beyond any doubt that the President was in fact born in Hawaii."

Except for the fact that, under Hawaiian law, the COLB that Obama produced is the ONLY record verifying birth that the state issues.

This is confirmed here:

http://www.starbulletin.com/columnists/kokualine/20090606_kokua_line.html

Which states:

"you can't obtain a "certificate of live birth" anymore.

The state Department of Health no longer issues copies of paper birth certificates as was done in the past, said spokeswoman Janice Okubo.

The department only issues "certifications" of live births, and that is the "official birth certificate" issued by the state of Hawaii, she said.

And, it's only available in electronic form.

Okubo explained that the Health Department went paperless in 2001.

"At that time, all information for births from 1908 (on) was put into electronic files for consistent reporting," she said.

Information about births is transferred electronically from hospitals to the department.

"The electronic record of the birth is what (the Health Department) now keeps on file in order to provide same-day certified copies at our help window for most requests," Okubo said.

Asked for more information about the short-form versus long-form birth documents, Okubo said the Health Department "does not have a short-form or long-form certificate."

"The birth certificate form has been modified over the years and decades to conform to national standards and models," she said.

Okubo also emphasized the certification form "contains all the information needed by all federal government agencies for transactions requiring a birth certificate."

Case closed.

Anonymous said...

Comment from Doctor C. :


There are three things numbered “1″ in the article. I’ll ignore the first set, and suffix the second with “a” and the third set with “b”.

2a. What was the name of the hospital ?

Why ask a question which law prohibits Okubo from answering?

3a. What was the name of the attending physician ?

Why ask a question which law prohibits Okubo from answering?

5a. Was the original birth certificate on record submitted as part of the 1911 Hawaii Birth Certificate program, which allowed parents of children residing in Hawaii who were over one year of age to submit alternate birth documentation to the Department of Health and still be called “an original birth certificate.”?

This is a dumb question. Barack Obama’s birth certificate shows his birth was registered 4 days after birth. The question is already answered by law, and should be dropped from the list. And the program is the “Hawaiian Birth Certificate”, not the “Hawaii Birth Certificate”, a program which only applies to persons of native Hawaiian descent (which Obama is not).

6a. On what date was the original birth certificate on file registered ?

August 8, 1961. It’s on the birth certificate.
1b. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, who issued the finely parsed official statement of October 31, 2008 which left the impression that she had seen the hard copy of the original birth certificate: Why did you not simply and honestly declare in your October 31, 2008 statement that you had not seen the hard copy of the original birth certificate, and that your statement verifying the authenticity of the “Certification of Live Birth” was based upon a forensic review of the process by which the data about President Obama’s birth in the State of Hawaii’s birth records was included in the data base, and that this process was consistent with the state’s policies and procedures?

The question is silly. Hawaiian officials did not look at the document posted on the Internet, and would have no way of verifying its authenticity. What they did say is that Barack Obama is registered in Hawaii, and in 1961 the only legal registration was for infants born in the state

3b. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino: Can you make public all electronic records you used and the documentation process you went through to confirm that President Obama’s birth records were kept in the State of Hawaii birth records data base in accordance with the state’s policies and procedures?

This asks for violations of state law. The question should be withdrawn. The process could be disclosed, but not the records.

4b. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino: Will you request that officials at Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children now transfer a copy of their original records related to the birth of President Obama to you, and will you publicly release those records?

The question asks for violations of both state and federal law. The question should be withdrawn.

Anonymous said...

Comment from Doctor C. continued:

6b. For the Hawaii Secretary of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino: Can you confirm with one hundred percent certainty that the original birth certificate of Barack Obama upon which your electronic records were based was in fact a “Certificate of Live Birth” issued by Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children, and not a substitute certificate submitted within a year of the actual birth, as allowed for by Hawaiian Statues which were in place from 1959 to 1978?

There is some confused terminology in this question. A hospital does not “issue” a birth certificate. The hospital initiates a document which when accepted by the State becomes a birth registration, and when issued by the State becomes a “birth certificate”. It would be a violation of Hawaiian law for Dr. Chiyome to disclose the name of the hospital where Obama was born — so the question should be withdrawn.

Further when a birth registration is changed (according to Hawaiian Law) the certificate issued must clearly be marked “altered”, so this part of the question has already been answered.

8b. For Maya Soetero-Ng, half-sister of President Obama: Is it factually true that you were born in Indonesia in 1970, and were subsequently issued a “Certification of Live Birth” by the State of Hawaii’s Department of Health, and that this document is of exactly the same type and form as the “Certification of Live Birth” that the same department has issued to your half-brother, President Obama?

It is certainly false that Maya Soetoro-NG ever had a Hawaiian birth certificate. That “factoid” was created of necessity to legitimize the theory that Maya’s birth certificate provided the base document upon which Obama’s birth certificate could have been forged. The story persisted to create confusion over what a “Certification of Live Birth” means. The fact is that Hawaiian Law 338-17.8 imposes a residency requirement on the parents; in order for Maya to have qualified for a out of state Hawaiian birth certificate, her mother would have to have been a legal resident of Hawaii in the year immediately preceding Maya’s birth, which was not the case. Also, an out of state registration would not be a “Certification of Live Birth” because that’s not what is being certified. Since a birth certificate is a primary document for proof of citizenship, they are very clearly labeled as to what they are and what they are not.

The implication is that if Maya could get one, then Barack could get one. The only glaring flaw is that the Certificate, by law, has to say where the child was born, and Obama’s COLB says he was born in Hawaii.

I find myself intellectually offended by the list of questions because they seem to be questions designed for a propaganda purpose, and not to obtain actual information. Some of the questions, are legitimate ones, but others are definitely not. I detailed the problems with selected questions in previous comments.

The questions are posed in such a way as to suggest the possibility of things which are already discredited by law and fact.

When the discredited questions are removed, no remaining question could possibly have any bearing on where and when President Obama was born. So why ask the questions in the first place, unless it’s a smear campaign, and not a legitimate inquiry.

James L. Greenlee said...

I'm not sure that "tea bagger" was started by Rachel Maddow, though she did further the meme. Early on, Tea Party participants were holding signs like "Tea Bag Obama!" with a clear double-entendre intended. It was only when that double-meaning was turned back on them with humor that the tea baggers started to take offense.

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

James Greenlee,

Thanks for your comment.

I think if you research this further you will see that the term "tea bag" first publicly appeared in a February 27 photo of one tea party protester at the first Washington DC party taken by journalist David Weigel.

If you check that lone photo out, I think you will conclude no double entendre was intended.

Bloggers Instaputz and Wonkette started the double entendre concept, but it was not until April 9 MSNBC broadcast by Rachel Maddow, which was clearly filled with double entendre that the term "tea bagger" with the double entendre became a meme.

Check out that video of the April 9Rachel Maddow show at http://www.MemeSNBC.com .

James L. Greenlee said...

I personally have seen and heard "tea bagger" before Rachel ever said it, as well as the term "tea bag Obama" by others prior to the MSNBC show.

But I personally found Rachel's bit very very funny, so I know I'm not your audience anyway. I mean really. If it had been an immigration protest with the name "Dirty Sanchez" would you expect it not to be made fun of?

I'm a blogger who deals in snarkiness, so I personally was simply unable to resist.