ADL Special Reports: Rage Grows in America: Anti‑Government Conspiracies
- Index / Summary
- Part One: Anger in the Mainstream
- Part Two: Anger on the Fringes
- Download a PDF of this report (.97MB)
- Press Release: Report: Rage Grows In America Conspiracy Theories Fuel Anti-Government Fervor (11/16/2009)
Rage Grows in America: Anti‑Government Conspiracies
The “Birther” Movement
In addition to the anger against the Obama administration, there has been an attempt by a wide range of Obama opponents to delegitimize him by claiming that he is not an American citizen. This conspiracy theory started even before Obama became president and its believers have become part of what is known as the “birther” movement.
The “birthers” assert that the President has never produced a valid birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii. Since the Constitution stipulates that only a natural-born citizen of the United States can be president, they claim that Obama is not legally in office. The conspiracists believe that President Obama, whose mother was American and whose father was Kenyan, was actually born in Kenya. This anti-Obama conspiracy theory has spread quickly.
The “Birther” Conspiracies
There are a number of variations on the “birther” conspiracy theory. Some “birthers” claim that even if Obama were born in Hawaii, he still does not qualify to be president because he allegedly has dual citizenship. They base this claim on Obama’s father being a Kenyan with British citizenship, which they allege would have been passed on to his son. Others say that Obama became a citizen of Kenya when that country won its independence from Great Britain. Still, others have alleged that Obama is an Indonesian citizen, because he was reportedly adopted by his mother’s second husband, an Indonesian.
The claim that Obama was not born in the United States has received widespread exposure and has even been promoted by media pundits. For example, in July 2009, on his syndicated radio show, Lou Dobbs raised questions about the notion that President Obama had failed to produce a birth certificate. “Just produce it and be done with it,” he demanded.
In addition, a number of state and federal legislators have pandered to the theory, with some even trying to pass legislation demanding that Obama prove he has an American birth certificate.
In response to the allegations about his birth, which emerged during the campaign, Obama’s staff posted a copy of his birth certificate on the campaign’s Web site to show that he was born in Hawaii. The birth certificate, known as the “short form,” is used officially in Hawaii to prove that someone was born in the state. However, this form only added fuel to the fire for the conspiracy theorists, who claim that only the “long form” providing more detail about President Obama’s birth is acceptable proof that he was born in the United States.
Despite the fact that government officials in Hawaii and non-partisan groups have all authenticated Obama’s birth certificate, the “birther” movement continues to gain adherents. They are egged on by very vocal proponents, including Joseph Farah, publisher of World Net Daily, a right-wing online newspaper, and two attorneys, Philip Berg and Orly Taitz. Berg and Taitz are also known for promoting other anti-government conspiracy theories.
Philip Berg. Berg, a Pennsylvania-based lawyer, filed one of the first lawsuits challenging Obama’s citizenship in August 2008. In that lawsuit, which was eventually dismissed, Berg charged that President Obama was ineligible to be president because he was either a citizen of Kenya or Indonesia. This was not the first time that Berg brought a lawsuit against a president based on anti-government conspiracy theories. In 2004, he filed a lawsuit against George W. Bush in which he alleged that the government secretly allowed the September 11 terrorist attacks to occur. According to one report, Berg’s suit alleged that the World Trade Center was actually destroyed from within and that FEMA actually had a plan in place that would replace elected officials with a secret government. He has gained a following as he continues to promote the conspiracy theory that President Obama is not an American citizen.
Orly Taitz. Orly Taitz, a California-based lawyer and dentist, has attracted a following with her anti-Obama conspiracy theories. She has filed numerous lawsuits against Obama charging that he does not have a legal birth certificate. The plaintiffs in many cases have been members of the armed services challenging their responsibility to obey someone they believe is an illegitimate Commander in Chief. Just about all of the lawsuits have been dismissed.
In one of her last cases challenging Obama’s citizenship, Taitz filed a lawsuit on behalf of a number of plaintiffs, including Alan Keyes and Wiley Drake, 2008 presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively, for the fringe American Independent Party. Drake, a California pastor, is known for publicly admitting that he prays for President Obama’s death. In late October 2009, the judge dismissed the lawsuit saying his court did not have the jurisdiction to rule on a case that involved removing a sitting president. The judge also reportedly stated that the plaintiffs “have attacked the judiciary, including every prior court that has dismissed their claim, as unpatriotic and even treasonous for refusing to grant their requests and for adhering to the terms of the Constitution.”
In September 2009, after another judge dismissed a different birth certificate lawsuit brought by Taitz, she accused him of treason. The following month, that judge fined Taitz $20,000, saying that she was abusing “her privilege for practicing law” and was using “the courts as a platform for a political agenda disconnected from any legitimate legal cause of action.”
As Taitz’s cases have been dismissed, she has turned more to conspiracy theories to expound on Obama’s alleged illegitimacy as president. She has referred to Obama as a “usurper” and has reportedly promoted the ideas that Obama is creating a civilian army and that FEMA is building concentration camps. According to one account, she has also charged that the government will use the swine flu as an excuse to round up American citizens.
Both Taitz and Berg and their conspiracy theories regarding Obama’s citizenship have been embraced by other anti-government extremist figures. The two were speakers at a December 2008 conference organized by We the People Foundation for Constitutional Education. Robert Schulz, who heads the organization, is perhaps the leading figure in the right-wing, anti-government tax protest movement. Schulz also placed full-page ads in the Chicago Tribune demanding President Obama provide a team of forensic scientists who could validate his birth certificate.
World Net Daily. World Net Daily (WND), published by Joseph Farah, is an on-line newspaper with a far right-wing political outlook that often blurs the distinction between fact and opinion, or even fact and fiction. The publication has spearheaded efforts to convince the public that Obama does not have a legitimate birth certificate. Over 700 articles dealing with President Obama’s citizenship status have appeared on WND’s Web site. It has also created an on-line petition demanding the “public release” of Obama’s birth certificate. The petition has reportedly been signed by over 400,000 people.
One of the main reporters for WND, Jerome Corsi, has been a major promoter of the “birther” conspiracy theory, as well as other conspiracy theories. He is well-known as the co-author of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out, a book that claimed that 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry lied about his service during the Vietnam War.
Corsi is also the author of Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, a negative portrayal of Obama written before he was elected President. Corsi alleged the existence of a “depth of racial rage that may still inform his life decisions and his politics today.” In October 2008, the Kenyan government expelled Corsi, who had traveled to the country both to promote his book and to investigate alleged ties between Obama and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Corsi has promoted other conspiracy theories, including the idea that there was government involvement in the 9/11 attacks and that that the U.S. government has a hidden agenda to form a North American Union, which would allegedly join together the United States, Canada and Mexico into one large country. Corsi has also been a guest speaker on the radio show of Alex Jones [see Alex Jones, the Conspiracy King], one of the main promoters of anti-government conspiracy theories.
In July 2008, Corsi appeared on the Political Cesspool, a white supremacist Internet and AM radio show that regularly features white supremacists, Holocaust deniers, and other conspiracy theorists as guests. On the show, he discussed his financial newsletter and promoted his book. He had previously appeared on the show in 2007.