“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Abraham Lincoln
A recent CBS/New York Times poll found that 25 percent of Americans and 45 percent of registered Republican voters believe that President Obama was not born in the United States. Another 22 percent of Republican voters say they don’t know. For the record, President Obama was born on Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapi’olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. His birth certificate documents it. Hawaii officials confirm it. And no one seriously doubts it except for a vocal minority of “birthers” who will do or say anything to get America’s first Black president out of the White House.
Recently, the birthers have turned up the volume with the addition of the bombastic rantings of Donald Trump, the New York business magnate, reality TV star and potential Republican candidate for president. In recent appearances on “The View,” “Good Morning America,” “NBC Today,” and other shows, Trump, who is playing the media like a fiddle, has repeatedly made false and incendiary insinuations that Barack Obama may not be a U.S. citizen and therefore not qualified to be president of the United States. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that Trump’s birther claims as well as his flirtation with the presidential race is nothing more than an insincere sideshow, intended to promote his personal brand and raise his TV ratings. But as the new polling shows, in the looney tunes world of modern American politics, a sizeable number of the electorate is responding. That is unfortunate. It is one thing for Trump to “fire” contestants weekly on his “Apprentice” TV show, it is quite another to cynically fire up the right-wing base with lies that feed their already biased assertion that President Obama is somehow “not one of us.”
We urge the mainstream media to pull the plug on this hoax. Trump’s birther-based candidacy is nothing more than a weapon of mass distraction that disqualifies him as a serious presidential contender. He is taking valuable air time from others who have important things to say about the most important issues of the 2012 presidential campaign, most notably the unemployment crisis in America.
Even pundits like Karl Rove, Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter have discredited Trump’s birther claims. Rove recently called Trump a “joke candidate” who is pandering to the “nutty right.” And last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who last year signed a law requiring police to check the citizenship status of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, actually vetoed a bill which would have required presidential candidates to show proof of citizenship before being admitted to the state ballot.
Another flamboyant American showman, P.T. Barnum is credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” We trust that citizens of all political persuasions and the mainstream media will not fall for Donald Trump’s weapon of mass distraction. With sky high unemployment, an epidemic of housing foreclosures, crumbling schools, struggling urban centers, a worsening debt crisis and seemingly never-ending wars, there are serious issues that need our attention. President Obama’s citizenship is not one of them.
Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.