http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bar ... 0b1ba1b470Obama’s Long, Frustrating And Fruitless Campaign To Kill Birtherism
His aides have discovered a painful truth: The conspiracy theory will never fully die.
09/23/2016 02:30 pm ET
Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post
For aides to President Barack Obama, the first hint that his biography was the subject of conspiracy theories arrived well before Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and even before Obama considered a presidential bid. It came in the weeks after he delivered his famous “Red America, Blue America” speech at the Democratic convention in 2004. And the theories had nothing to do with his place of birth ― they had to do with his religion.
In the summer of 2004, the conservative website Free Republic picked up a press release alleging that the up-and-coming state senator from Illinois was secretly Muslim. Obama’s office was aware of the post’s existence. But as Tommy Vietor, Obama’s aide at the time, noted, they treated it as a “subterranean issue,” the type that sparked more eye-rolls than intrigue. The assumption was that few would take it seriously.
Twelve years later, those assumptions seem quaint. Conspiracy theories about Obama’s biography have morphed and persisted. And with Trump’s ascendance in the Republican Party and his years of unwillingness to firmly disavow the myth that Obama was not born in America, it’s clear to these same aides that the smears they tried to dismiss in 2004 and kill thereafter will likely never fully die.
“I never imagined it would go this far and be taken seriously by credible people ― if you consider Donald Trump to be a credible person,” said Ben LaBolt, an aide in the 2008 campaign and the press secretary in 2012. “It is like Glenn Close in ‘Fatal Attraction.’ You think it is gone, but it keeps popping up in the craziest places.”
The story of birtherism is not a story about Obama, since birtherism is a lie. It is a story about the difficult, often futile attempts to dispel a myth in an online age when there are more means and incentives to spread it. For those who have worked with the president, it is a nagging, demoralizing and often-shifting battle defined by its racist undertones. Birtherism began not as Trump asserts ― as an effort by Clinton’s 2008 campaign to delegitimize Obama ― but by those on the conservative fringe who were taken aback by the speed of Obama’s political trajectory.
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