Was Barack Obama born in Hawaii, or Kenya, or somewhere else? He claims to have been born in Hawaii, but no definitive proof has been provided. It is a false statement to definitively state that he was born in Hawaii, as some media sources have done. The most they should state is that there's a very strong possibility that he was born in Hawaii and he claims to have been born there, but some reporters and other sources cross the line into pretending that the matter has been settled.
The matter has not been settled, and in fact attorney Philip Berg is currently suing Obama and the DNC, trying to get them to release his records. It's also apparently possible for a Hawaii resident who was born out of state or out of the country to obtain a birth certificate (link). The copies of the Certification of Live Birth ("COLB") discussed below do list Honolulu as his place of birth, but that could have been the result of fraud or a mix-up of some kind.
The following have been offered as proof, even though they aren't:
1. An announcement that appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1961, nine days after his birthdate (picture here). According to that link, those listings came directly from the hospitals. However, neither that nor the listing itself have been confirmed. And, the listing doesn't say where he was born, only providing the address of his parents. There's certainly the possibility that he was born elsewhere and the listing was somehow placed by, for instance, his grandparents. The usual argument against that mockingly asks whether his grandparents planted the announcement thinking that one day he would run for president (used by FactCheck, #3 below). However, there are other explanations. They could have wanted it to confer U.S. citizenship rather than the less valuable Kenyan (or other) citizenship. Or, they could have wanted it in the case of divorce and a resulting custody battle. The announcement alone is not proof.
2. Obama's own statements, such as those made at his site: fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate. One would have to be quite gullible to take that page at face value, as all it contains is a picture of his COLB and two links. The first is to the FactCheck article (#3) below. The second is even worse: a link to what is actually merely the opinion of Eli Saslow of the Washington Post: "The truth: Sen. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is a Christian family man with a track record of public service." As pointed out in this post, it's false to definitively state that Obama was born in Hawaii, and that article - the one upon which the Obama campaign is relying - contains a series of other lies. The bottom line is that Obama's own statements are not proof. He could be lying. Or, he might not even know for sure, and could simply be relying on a falsified family history.
3. FactCheck was allowed to take photographs of the COLB (factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html), however, there are several problems that their supposed proof:
A. FactCheck doesn't indicate that they showed it to document experts.
B. They were able to contact representatives of the state of Hawaii about some related issues, but they weren't able to verify it with that state.
C. Their mocking tone - including the use of the phrase "tinfoil hat" - doesn't speak to their commitment to determine the truth.
D. Their photos show the certificate was issued on June 6, 2007. This may contradict a statement from Politfact (#4 below): "[Janice Okubo of HI's health department] said a copy of the birth certificate was requested in June 2008, but she wouldn't specify by whom." Were there two requests, is that a typo, did Okubo make a mistake, or what?
E. FactCheck is "funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation" (factcheck.org/about), the same foundation that started the Chicago Annenberg Challenge which was headed up by Barack Obama.
F. While FactCheck for the most part gets things right, they've also gotten several things wrong (link, link) or shown bias (factcheck.org/elections-2008/wrong_paul.html).
G. The EXIF data shown in original photos had a date months before they were supposedly taken, and that EXIF data was removed when they recompressed the photos.
H. FactCheck hasn't exactly pursued this case to the ends of the Earth. For instance, it was a week after the posting of their "definitive" proof that they finally informed us that "[Obama] held both U.S. and Kenyan citizenship as a child, but lost his Kenyan citizenship automatically on his 21st birthday" (http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/does_barack_obama_have_kenyan_citizenship.html).
Bottom line: what FactCheck says is not proof.
12/28/09 UPDATE: For a point of reference, see this post from celebrity gossip site TMZ about their attempts to authenticate a photo of JFK: peekURL.com/zvmdpck
TMZ brought in named document experts to examine the original; FactCheck just used their staffers. FactCheck can't even rise to the level of Harvey Levin. (And, as if to prove my point, it later turned out that the photo was a hoax and was actually from an old magazine having nothing to do with JFK: peekURL.com/ztuvznb Once again: FactCheck didn't even rise to the TMZ level.)
4. The Politfact article (politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/jun/27/obamas-birth-certificate-part-ii), which is even less reliable than the one from FactCheck. They attempted to obtain Obama's birth certificate without luck, but eventually they received a picture of the COLB from the Obama campaign (politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/jun/13/obamas-birth-certificate), which is presumably the same picture as at Obama's "Fight the Smears" site. However, because such information is only available to direct family members, they were unable to confirm the certificate with the state of Hawaii. The best they could do is interview a spokeswoman for the state of Hawaii's health department (Janice Okubo):
Okubo says she got a copy of her own birth certificate last year and it is identical to the Obama one we received.
And about the copy we e-mailed her for verification? “When we looked at that image you guys sent us, our registrar, he thought he could see pieces of the embossed image through it."
Still, she acknowledges: 'I don’t know that it's possible for us to even say beyond a doubt what the image on the site represents."
Then, after bringing in someone to discuss conspiracy theories, they punt. Their statement that Obama was born in Hawaii is completely based on the assumption that he couldn't have gotten as far as he has without providing proof to others, such as colleges. However, those colleges could have said the same thing and might not have seen his birth certificate or might have seen a forged document. An article based completely on such assumptions is not proof.
5. Snopes says the claim that the COLB is a forgery is "false" (snopes.com/politics/obama/birthcertificate.asp). However, they add no new facts, but simply rely on claims from FactCheck and the suppositions of Politifact. They link to presumably the same JPEG of the COLB as FactCheck as well as the Honolulu Advertiser announcement mentioned in #1. They also say:
Aside from the inherent absurdity of such claims (i.e., that a major party presidential nominee would risk his entire candidacy on a fraud that could be uncovered simply by a check of state health records), the supposedly incriminating details don't pan out...
The problem, of course, is that no such "check" is allowed; if it were, Obama's opponents would have already performed such a check and there would be no issue. As one could have assumed, Snopes cannot be trusted.
Until Obama releases an official copy of his birth certificate to some reliable authority - such as a respected judge - and that certificate is verified with the issuing agency there will always be doubts about his birthplace. Even showing some form of his birth certificate to a group of reporters will not be proof because reporters are not document experts and a very large number of reporters have shown themselves willing to lie on his behalf.
There's certainly the possibility that Obama is playing a game by not releasing documentation. He could be trying to give his opponents false hope that he'd be knocked out of the race at the last moment or even after being elected. Or, he could just be trying to distract his opponents from pursuing an unrelated line of attack that would actually work. Or, there could be something else in his records that he doesn't want his potential voters to see, such as the birth certificate showing some detail that would be damaging, or something similar in a college application.
I don't recommend being distracted by or counting on this issue. However, if anyone definitively says that Obama was born in Hawaii, please direct them to this page. It is false to definitively say that he was born in Hawaii.
UPDATE: I added the Snopes section. Also, shortly before the election, the state of Hawaii issued a statement concerning the issue. Despite what some - including the Associated Press have said, they did not confirm the COLB as pictured at FactCheck, nor did they confirm that he was born in Hawaii. All they confirmed is that he has a certificate on file. And, as discussed at the last link, those born in other states or foreign countries can obtain Hawaii birth certificates if their parents are residents of that state. Further, it would be illegal for those officials to have discussed any of the contents of the certificate without Obama's permission, something that he clearly has not given.
UPDATE 2: All of this information has been collated on this page.
UPDATE 3: To be precise, it's a "Certification of Live Birth", not a "Certificate of Live Birth".