No Evidence Hillary Clinton Gave Birth to Birtherism, as Alt-Right and Trump Continue to Claim this Weekend
A Far-Left Journalist and his Former Employer McClatchy (Who Bought Media Giant Knight Ridder News a Decade Ago) are Emboldening the Far Right by Saying, “Clinton Started It.” But Where is Your Story if You’re “Responsible” Journalists?
UPDATE Sept 28, 2016: Indeed, Donald Trump brought up McClatchy in the first Presidential Debate and again tried (and failed) to pin “birtherism” on Hillary Clinton. And Politifact said Trump’s claims were “false.” So, again, I’m not sniffing glue here in wanting to make clear this cannot be hung around Clinton’s neck— though Trump may be sniffing something else.
Hell, Trump can’t even get the most basic “facts” correct according to FactCheck.org (emphasis mine): “Trump said, ‘Blumenthal sent McClatchy, highly respected reporter at McClatchy, to Kenya to find out’ if Obama was born in Keyna. Blumenthal didn’t send a reporter to Kenya. However, McClatchy’s respected former bureau chief James Asher said he had a meeting with Blumenthal during the 2008 campaign, and at that meeting Blumenthal encouraged McClatchy to chase the story of Obama’s birth … There is no clear evidence to support Asher’s account.”
UPDATE Sept 20, 2016: Did someone at McClatchyDC read this post? OK, it’s unlikely. But some key questions are now answered. McClatchy reports 9/19/2016 at 7:35 p.m. some corroboration from reporter Shashank Bengali, who was the McClatchy bureau chief in Nairobi in 2008. Bengali confirms he followed up on the “birtherism” rumors at the behest of his boss James Asher, but found no evidence and said Monday, “I don’t have any specific knowledge where that tip would have come from.” Thus, there’s no solid proof it’s Clinton’s guy Sid Blumenthal. Also, Poltico wrote 9/19/2016 at 8:44 p.m. “Did Sid Blumenthal really push birtherism?” This is still a “one person’s word against another” story. The full narrative, I fear, has yet to conclude. Fingers crossed — for democracy, for the world — Trump doesn’t “Swift Boat” Clinton on this one.
I could have seen Morrissey this weekend at Riot Fest in Chicago (friend said he kept fans waiting for 30+ minutes and denied all attendees meat for two hours). Instead, I rejoined Twitter and tried to help Democracy! Actually, I’m not so sure I did anything but give the Fourth Estate a hard time. This is simply an attempt to hold accountable media (McClatchyDC) and advocacy journalists (James Asher) who make claims that could put Trump in the White House by pumping out Clinton-is-untrustworthy rumor with no sound evidence.
For those that missed Trump’s weasel-like “game over” on the arguably racist eight-year questioning of Obama’s country of birth, he said Friday, September 16: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.” Politifact and several media outlets said that’s patently false, and only Trump “fanned the flames” of a lie that 13% of the country wholeheartedly believes. But for 48 hours, conservative media is still in denial with the ironic help of Asher, a revered albeit left-leaning journalist. Trump’s campaign manager repeatedly tried to pin the controversy on Clinton and invoked McClatchy and Asher on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Even Trump lapdog Governor Chris Christie blatantly lies saying “it’s not true” that Trump continued birther conspiracies 2011–2016. Trump did.
I wrote the following as a response to the McClatchy 9/16/16 story titled “2 Clinton supporters in ’08 reportedly shared Obama ‘birther’ story.” My overlong comment for that page is also suitably short enough for a 5-minute Medium post:
Dear McClatchy: You owe the world another story. Show HOW and WHEN you sent a reporter to vet the illogical rumor of Obama’s Kenyan birth. The “birther” link in your Clinton-maligning article is from July 30, 2009, and includes a list of “birther” activists and origin stories, none involving Clinton people. You need to corroborate your own former bureau chief, James Asher, that you quote in this story — where you only use his words from his email, as he’s out there turning down interview requests, apparently, and passively Tweeting links of McClatchy articles that don’t sufficiently back up his claims. Overall, despite the media uproar, Asher seems rather distant and quiet this weekend, save for his one email to his former employer and under 140-character social media accusations (see his four Tweets Sept 16 and Sept 15, after his “Pardon Snowden” messaging: twitter.com/jimasher). The links and logic gaps I will explain below. And I’ll include an “Obama Woods” forest fire metaphor of Trump’s lies for good measure.
If you don’t answer, McClatchy, unknown surrogates may find a way to blast Trump’s fellow New Yorker Billy Joel’s final pop #1 “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in your air vents.
At this point, the media is getting so tired of Trump’s lies, they’re simply exasperated. Says Factcheck.org/CNN’s Jake Tapper on Saturday debunking the Clinton connection:
“No, no! It is not true at all. There is no evidence that Clinton or her campaign questioned the legitimacy of [Obama’s] birth certificate … A reminder to the politicians, you’re perfectly entitled to your own opinions, NOT your own facts.”
It’s not like CNN and the mainstream media is ignoring Asher’s statements, either. The article includes Asher’s claims that the supposed “birther” source is Clinton “hatchet-man” Sid Blumenthal and said, “CNN has attempted unsuccessfully to reach Asher for comment.” They did quote Blumenthal, who categorically denied his involvement this weekend to Fox News and other outlets by saying, “This is false. Never happened. Period. Donald Trump cannot distract from the inescapable fact that he is the one who embraced and promoted the racist birther lie and bears the responsibility for it.” I’ll note, Tapper in a separate CNN interview with Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine tossed out “McClatchy says they sent a reporter to Kenya to look into it.” So he implies it’s not just Asher’s claim alone. Did Tapper misspeak? I can’t find an official McClatchy on-the-record statement in this article or anywhere else. It’s all on Asher. Based on the numerous discrepancies, insinuation, and possible subterfuge, a representative from McClatchy owes an explanation.
After all, this is a multi-billion dollar news organization and a prominent journalist injecting themselves into a national story.
Here’s Asher’s email to McClatchy in Saturday’s article, noting that he was at the time the investigative editor and in charge of Africa coverage:
“During the 2008 Democratic primary, Sid Blumenthal visited the Washington Bureau of McClatchy Co.
“During that meeting, Mr. Blumenthal and I met together in my office and he strongly urged me to investigate the exact place of President Obama’s birth, which he suggested was in Kenya. We assigned a reporter to go to Kenya, and that reporter determined that the allegation was false.
“At the time of Mr. Blumenthal’s conversation with me, there had been a few news articles published in various outlets reporting on rumors about Obama’s birthplace. While Mr. Blumenthal offered no concrete proof of Obama’s Kenyan birth, I felt that, as journalists, we had a responsibility to determine whether or not those rumors were true. They were not.”
So where’s the squelching of that rumor in a McClatchy story circa 2008? Didn’t you say you had a “responsibility” to do that as journalists?
Asher Tweeted: “On #Obama and #birther. McClatchy from 2008. #Hillary #Election2016 #Trump.” He embeds the October 2008 McClatchy article link as apparent “proof.” And he Tweeted hours later he has Blumenthal’s business card. A business card! McClatchy editors and writers did not include this “smoking gun” link in their current article for reasons unknown, perhaps because they have the critical thinking skills to understand it’s only tangentially connected to Asher’s assertions. Frankly, it’s the akin to the vague “innuendo” links I see in comment sections by wannabe journalists and know-it-all types. (And, I can attest, I’ve seen the September 16 McClatchy article clumsily wielded in numerous stories and comment sections this weekend.)
Bottom line: If James Asher’s claims are true, why is the McClatchy story he Tweets from October 2008, several months after the Democratic primary? Much earlier in 2008 during the heated primary race is when Asher, as news gatekeeper for McClatchy, says he first heard from Blumenthal that Obama may have been born in Kenya. So why does the October article by reporter Shashank Bengali have no tie to Asher’s current claim other than it’s a story about a birther writer being deported from Kenya? Was Bengali that “reporter” McClatchy sent? What’s the connection? There’s zero “…and we checked, and Obama wasn’t born in Kenya” reporting.
The redwood sized question to conspiracy-minded folks and curious Americans alike: If this was something “Clinton started,” how come there’s no stories about it? For years. I posted yesterday a separate comment at the bottom of this McClatchy article. Trump apologists and right-wing trolls sent me a 2007 Atlantic link on Mark Penn or 2008 Huffington Post link as proof. NONE mentioned Obama’s birthplace. They merely showed rough-and-tumble politicking by Clinton’s camp (some ugly). There’s NO evidence (link, website, non-conspiracy whisper) that Clinton or her proxies have a direct connection to this controversy. Even if Blumenthal did try to peddle birtherism, it actually never took root and no other reporter has ever said they heard from him. Thus, it would still be a lie by Trump to state, “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.”
Here’s a “birther” metaphor for those still reading: This whole saga is as if some Clinton surrogate tried starting a fire in the Obama Woods, but it didn’t take. No smoke and few people saw it. Except for maybe a McClatchy bureau chief named James “ashes to ashes” Asher who only now says he kept that potential arson secret for eight years. But Donald “burn it all down” Trump and alt-right media started an inferno elsewhere in the forest and fanned the flames. Then it seemingly died out in 2011 when Obama presented his “long form” birth certificate. But the right-wing Smokey the Bears still saw burning embers and yelled “fire” every time they looked upon the Obama Woods, now called Barack Hussein Obama National Park by virtue off his two overwhelming presidential victories. Yes, those losses hurt. Thus, they live in denial every day with anti-They Live goggles — which complement Trump’s xenophobic-racist glasses. Then one fine September day in 2016, Trump says publicly for first time he magically ended the mythical fire that was never really ablaze except for those with bigoted imaginations. “OK, I finished it. Fire out. Period. But listen to me folks: She started it.” The child within can’t full take the blame or apologize. To that one can only say: Liar liar pants on fire.
In the end, I simply have one thing to say to current Washington Editor for Injustice Watch James Asher and The McClatchy Company (who bought news conglomerate Knight Ridder in 2006 for $4.5 billion): You say there’s smoke. But provide no fire. Or even ashes.