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.