Tracing the Narratives of Birthers and Trig-Truthers

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It's 2011, and yet we're still sorting through the veracity of the crazier theories of election 2008. Today, Politico and Salon have attempted definitive explanations/debunkings of the most virulent of those political fringe conspiracies: Birtherism and Trig-Trutherism.

If you're even slightly interested any either of these topics, we'd suggest reading the quite-convincing takes of Justin Elliott, Ben Smith, and Byron Tau. However, if you're looking for an at-a-glance review, here's what we learned:

Trig Trutherism: The Definitive Debunker (Salon)

  • What the Conspiracy Is: "Trig Trutherism holds that Trig's real mother is either Bristol Palin or some third party, and that Sarah Palin herself faked the pregnancy to avoid embarrassment for her daughter or for political gain or some combination of reasons," writes Elliott.
  • Why the Conspiracy Still Exists: People have been making claims that Sarah Palin is not actually the mother of 3-year-old Trig Palin since early 2008. But recently a new academic paper by a journalism professor at North Kentucky University has fanned the flames of the "Palin-hating left" once again.
  • New Information Added To Debate: Salon conducted  "new interviews with multiple eyewitnesses who interacted with a pregnant Sarah Palin up-close in early 2008," including Associated Press and McClatchy news reporters who saw a visibly pregnant Sarah Palin. These "eyewitness accounts should carry more weight than the doubts of bloggers scrutinizing a few photos [of Palin not looking pregnant] posted on the Web," Elliott contends.
  • Main Reason Why the Conspiracy Is Ridiculous: After detailing the numerous eyewitness accounts and posting video and photo evidence showing a visibly pregnant Palin, Elliott describes two potential ways readers can digest this information:

You can believe that Palin was wearing a pregnancy suit and Hollywood-quality makeup for weeks, all before she had a national profile. You can believe that she fooled all of those journalists with her pregnancy costume, including the AP reporter who literally inspected Palin's belly in her office. You can believe that Palin, and her entire family, and her doctor, and her disgruntled former aide Frank Bailey, have been lying to the press in a tightly organized and mind-bogglingly elaborate conspiracy. You can believe that the medical workers who were involved in Trig's delivery were paid off or have simply kept inexplicably quiet about the hoax. You can believe that Bristol Palin gave birth to Trig and then had another child just eight months later.

Or you can believe that Trig is Sarah Palin's son.

Birtherism: Where It All Began (Politico)

  • What the Conspiracy Is: Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii as he says he was and has produced a fake certificate of live birth, making him ineligible to be President. An alternative theory in the same vein: "Obama was born in Hawaii but had a Kenyan father, and his mother was only 18 years old. Therefore, under existing immigration law, he was not eligible for automatic citizenship upon birth," writes Politico.
  • Why the Conspiracy Still Exists: Have you been paying attention to Donald Trump lately? The man has morphed from media mogul to raging birther. Following Trump's revival of the theory, it "has taken root--a New York Times poll Thursday found that a plurality of Republicans believe it."
  • New Information Added To Debate: The Politico reporters don't exactly report anything new as much as bring to light the copious amount of information already detailed in order to trace the history of the movement. They dig up, for instance, that the first birther to put his name to the email chain was "Phil Berg, a former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general who had spent the previous years accusing President George W. Bush of complicity in the Sept. 11 attack." They also find that the movement didn't begin in earnest until the Obama campaign tried to debunk rumors in 2008 by releasing a certificate of live birth.
  • Main Reason Why Conspiracy Is Ridiculous: Politico hones in on the claims of the birther-baiting conservative website World Net Daily, with this response:

The website World Net Daily, for instance, has written that “Hawaii at the time of Obama’s birth allowed births that took place in foreign countries to be registered in Hawaii.” This is true, but such a birth certificate would show the actual foreign place of birth instead of listing – as Obama’s does — Honolulu.

In addition to declaring the document a forgery, the birther movement’s main response – echoed by the ill-informed Trump - has been to claim that only a “long form” birth certificate can be valid. But the document shown by Obama is the only one the State of Hawaii is permitted, by law, to release. It is accepted as valid by the government entities like the State Department.

Hawaii law prevents the long-form record from being photocopied or released to anyone — including Obama. Obama himself would only be permitted to inspect it – not copy it or post it online.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.