I’m sure you’ve noticed an upsurge in “birther” media in 2016.
The subject of constitutional eligibility for presidents, derided from 2008 through 2015 as the purview of “conspiracy theorists,” is quite fashionable – so long as the focus is limited to the current crop of top Republican candidates.
But the latest entry into the frenzy is, shall we say, a little over the top.
It comes to us from the Daily Beast in the form of a story last week by Gideon Resnick, who describes himself as “a journalist with a fervent interest in politics, peach rings and rap mixtapes.” I probably should have known better than to talk to him about his story. I certainly won’t make the mistake of ever talking to another Beastie, again.
The headline? “Obama birthers now want Ted Cruz’s head: Some of the original people behind the birther movement have declared the Canadian-born senator ineligible for the presidency.”
As you can imagine, I was eager to see how my nearly hour-long interview on this subject would be handled.
Even I, a grizzled old news pro of 40 years experience, was shocked.
Among the lies:
- First lie: “WorldNetDaily, a site that has touted both Donald Trump and Cruz and been essential reading for their fans, is supporting the cause as well.”
- Second lie: “The birther movement would suggest that anyone born in a foreign country – in Cruz’s case, Canada – would need to become formally naturalized in a court of law before being considered a natural born citizen in the United States.”
- Third lie: “In 1790, after the revolution, the United States passed the Naturalization Act, which said that children who were born to U.S. citizens outside the United States also qualified as citizens. But these standards are not clear enough proof for people like Joseph Farah, the editor in chief of conservative site WorldNetDaily.”
Let’s begin there before we even get to out-of-context quotes from me.
First lie response: No one at WND – not one single employee or executive – is supporting Resnick’s elusive “cause” to declare Ted Cruz ineligible. In fact, I told him that in no uncertain terms. What I said to him was the following: I think Ted Cruz acted admirably in handling the potential for confusion on this matter – by releasing his birth certificate before announcing his candidacy, explaining the circumstances of his birth and citizenship status. It stood in marked contrast to what Barack Obama did beginning in 2008.
Obama, I explained, was the original birther. When it was convenient for him to label himself as “born in Kenya,” he did so – for many years. We know he did it when he was marketing his first book and for years afterward. We don’t know if he used it to be accepted to Occidental, Columbia or Harvard, because he refused to release any college records. He made a point of not releasing his birth certificate during the campaign or for years after he became president. It became a national joke. In effect, he mocked the constitutional requirement, even after his opponent in 2008, John McCain, was investigated for his own status as a “natural born citizen” because of his birth in Panama. McCain’s eligibility was investigated by the New York Times and eventually the U.S. Senate, which approved his eligibility, with Obama’s vote.
Specifically asked if I could support Ted Cruz for president, I said, “Yes, he would be among several Republican candidates I could support enthusiastically.”
I also strongly suggested that any debate about eligibility during a presidential campaign is tainted by politics. I explained how I still believed we need to have a national debate on the meaning of constitutional eligibility and that Congress should weigh in with specific criteria for the future.
That’s my response to the first lie – but I could go on if Resnick’s report was worth the time and the energy I have already expended on it.
Second lie response: Informed Americans concerned about constitutional eligibility, derisively called “birthers,” once again, understand there is a difference – or was in the founders’ minds – between simple “citizenship” and “natural born citizenship.” Those who have taken the time to investigate the meaning of those terms in the 18th century by the bright minds who wrote the U.S. Constitution comprehend the distinction. For instance, while anyone born in the U.S. might be considered a citizen, the citizenship status of their parents would likely be considered as to whether they were considered “natural born citizens.” If foreign citizens were visiting the U.S. when the mother gave birth, I can assure you the founders would not have considered such a circumstance resulting in a “natural born citizen.”
The typist’s assertion (I will refrain from calling him a reporter) that “formal naturalization” is an issue in establishing “natural born citizenship” is absurd. The very term “natural born citizenship” denotes “naturalization” after birth wouldn’t change a thing.
Third lie response: It’s clear that the peach ring and rap fan does not understand the distinction between simple citizenship and “natural born citizenship,” the constitutional standard used only for presidents and vice presidents in the U.S. Yet he invokes my name to suggest I don’t think the 1790 Naturalization Act is clear enough. For the record, we never discussed this. He never raised it. So I have no idea how he could draw such a conclusion, let alone publish an inaccurate one.
Resnick goes on to quote me in the most misleading way. Again, for the record, I permitted Resnick to record our conversation to avoid such problems.
By way of two headlines and some introductory paragraphs, I have already been tarred and smeared as someone who is out for “Ted Cruz’s head,” who has “declared the Canadian-born senator ineligible for the presidency” and who is “supporting the cause.” He has also prominently played the race card, alluding to my raising the eligibility issue against “the first black president” and now a man who could become “the first Latino president.”
Now we finally get to see words I uttered, but they are entirely out of context.
Here’s what I said: “Is that what the founders meant? Was it enough to have one parent be an American citizen? Does it matter where you’re born? This is a serious issue. It’s not some crazy conspiracy theory. It’s not some game. It’s the Constitution we’re talking about.”
Here’s the context: Earlier, I explained how my most important and salient point to the peach ring-rap mix expert was that America should have a national dialogue about constitutional eligibility – not in the context of particular candidates during a political campaign – but when personalities and politics are not even considered. Notice also, that I drew no conclusions of my own. I asked questions to stimulate how such an intelligent, non-partisan, non-political debate might take place. I offered that Congress might look at this issue – or even the Supreme Court – in a non-election year. Otherwise, in an election year, as I found out in 2008, the discussion degenerates to the point of futility and absurdity.
Finally, after 17 paragraphs, the Beastie boy typist informs his readers, if they got this far, that I actually like Ted Cruz, but not before he labels me a “purveyor of conspiracy theories about Obama’s birth in Kenya.” Again, to show you how egregious this insulting lie is, I began our conversation by telling Resnick that I was talking to him reluctantly because MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was still going off on her TV show accusing me of claiming Obama was born in Kenya. I explained that in the hundreds of thousands of words I had carefully written on this subject and in the hundreds of interviews and speeches I gave, never once did I say Obama was born in Kenya. I was attempting to make sure he wouldn’t step on this one land mine, but he did – obviously intentionally.
Here’s the first accurate and in-context quote from me: “I personally think Ted Cruz is a terrific candidate, one of the smartest guys in any room he goes into. I think he’d be a fine president.”
Now how does that support the content and tone of the preceding report?
But immediately, my motives are impugned: “After all, WND sells a book by Cruz’s father, Rafael, called ‘A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America,’ which details how Christians should get more involved in politics. Not to mention WND’s close affiliation with a fellow Cruz-lover Frank Gaffney, who has said that Grover Norquist is a secret informant of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
How’s that for a non sequitur? Again, for the record, WND is not merely “selling” Rafael Cruz’s book, we are publishing it.
The story goes on and on, but I know by now you are getting bored. So am I. But I needed to vent. This was an egregious violation of every journalism ethic and standard I’ve ever heard of in my four decades in the business. Quite frankly, the kid should be fired. No one in his right mind should ever give him another interview.
But bear with me for a minute or two: Having made the case that I am part of a movement – a conspiracy with people I have never met or talked to or heard of – to get Cruz’s head and declare him ineligible, he goes on to say I actually want him to succeed. He further asserts that I am raising the issue to “ensure that he can.” Imagine that. I didn’t even know I was raising the issue. I merely agreed to participate in an interview. And this is the thanks I get.
Media wishing to interview Joseph Farah, please contact [email protected].