snopes

Snopes

Supposed "fact checking" site that has edited entries without notice and which has failed to admit when they were misleading. Also substitutes mockery and piling on for open-minded, fact-based analysis. See, for example, this. After writing that, I sent them an email without effect and then tried to join their forums in order to point that out to their readers. My request was denied.

Last modified Sep 7, 2014
Discussed in (click each link for the full post):

Who was Obama's birth doctor? (David Sinclair, Rodney West, ...; Snopes) - 04/27/11

Who was Obama's birth doctor? Was it Dr. David Sinclair, Dr. Rodney West, Dr. Spock, Mr. Spock, Dr. "Bones" McCoy, or someone else? When it comes to the Obama citizenship issue things are never clear (but it's probably not the last three).

And, there's always the newtruth, which supersedes one or more versions of the oldtruth: what was the truth yesterday is no longer the truth today as the story changes and a new version of the truth is determined.

So, for instance, the newtruth is that the person who delivered Obama was Dr. David Sinclair; that's enshrined on the "long-form birth certificate" Obama released today.

Contrast that with the oldtruth, as enshrined in the main Snopes article about the "Birther" issue (snopes.com/politics/obama/birthcertificate.asp, screengrab here because Snopes has silently changed entries before). According to the oldtruth, the doctor who delivered Obama was Dr. Rodney T. West. Snopes' oldtruth is apparently via a 1/20/09 article that appeared in the Buffalo News by Paula Voell entitled "Teacher from Kenmore recalls Obama was a focused student":

When Barack Hussein Obama places his hand on the Bible today to take the oath of office as 44th president of the United States, Barbara Nelson of Kenmore will undoubtedly think back to the day he was born. It was Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children in Honolulu.

“I may be the only person left who specifically remembers his birth. His parents are gone, his grandmother is gone, the obstetrician who delivered him is gone,” said Nelson, referring to Dr. Rodney T. West, who died in February at the age of 98. Here’s the story: Nelson was having dinner at the Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki Beach with Dr. West, the father of her college friend, Jo-Anne. Making conversation, Nelson turned to Dr. West and said: “‘So, tell me something interesting that happened this week,’” she recalls.

His response: “Well, today, Stanley had a baby. Now that’s something to write home about.”

The new mother was Stanley (later referred to by her middle name of Ann) Dunham, and the baby was Barack Hussein Obama.

“I penned the name on a napkin, and I did write home about it,” said Nelson, knowing that her father, Stanley A. Czurles, director of the Art Education Department at Buffalo State College, would be interested in the “Stanley” connection.

She also remembers Dr. West mentioning that the baby’s father was the first black student at the University of Hawaii and how taken he was by the baby’s name.

“I remember Dr. West saying ‘Barack Hussein Obama, now that’s a musical name,’” said Nelson, who grew up in Kenmore and went to Hawaii in 1959 to be in Jo-Anne’s wedding party. When Nelson was offered a job as a newspaper reporter and photographer at her friend’s wedding reception, it led to her living in Hawaii for 47 years. She returned to Kenmore in 2006.

Ten years after that memorable birth announcement, Nelson would hear the Obama name again. This time, the father, now a Kenyan government official, was coming to speak at the Punahou School in Honolulu where Nelson was teaching and where his 10-year-old son was a newly enrolled fifth-grader.

Now, there are probably innocent explanations: Barbara Nelson just made it all up to get her name in the paper, there could have been two doctors, or West could have changed his name, or some sort of explanation involving alternative universes and wizards. Or something.

Rumors falsely claim Walmart is cooperating with DHS on immigration raids at its stores - 03/16/10

Walmart is a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, aka amnesty and probably wouldn't cooperate on immigration raids with the Department of Homeland Security. Why bother?

Barack Obama gave differing accounts of which hospital he was born in (Wikipedia and Snopes too) (+Bill Press) - 07/08/09

Those who make the definitive claim that Barack Obama was born in Honolulu should know which hospital he was born in, right? How can you know for a fact that he was born there without knowing which hospital it was? Yet, not only have Snopes and Wikipedia given differing accounts of which hospital he was born in, but so has Obama himself.

Gail Kerr's misleading Tennessean column (+a challenge) - 02/16/09

Gail Kerr, columnist for the Tennessean newspaper, offers "Lawmakers look dumb for reviving Obama hoax" (link). It concerns a lawsuit that four TN legislators are involved in seeks to find out whether Barack Obama is indeed eligible to be president. Whatever the details of the case (I'm not familiar with it), Kerr makes several misleading statements in the column.

Where was Barack Obama born? In Hawaii? In Kenya? Somewhere else? - 10/19/08

(Please see the Obama citizenship page for the latest.)

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".

National Council of La Raza gave award to racist professor ("eliminate the gringo", Jose Angel Gutierrez) - 02/06/08

The National Council of La Raza ("The Race") is currently leading a campaign to drive "hate speech" (i.e., opposition to illegal immigration) from the airwaves.

Meanwhile, back in 1994, they gave their "Chicano Hero Award" to University of Texas at Arlington professor Jose Angel Gutierrez [1], who had made this comment in 1969, well before having received the award:

"We have got to eliminate the gringo, and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to

Philip Dine/St. Louis Post-Dispatch: North American Union just "urban legend" - 05/23/07

Philip Dine of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers 'Urban legend of "North American Union" feeds on fears'. That appears to be the original title, it doesn't appear to have been printed in his own paper, and it's accompanied by a handy chart listing other "urban legends". The latter are obvious ones, such as the perennial favorite about a rebate from Microsoft.

The EPA and... pesticide testing on orphans and mentally handicapped children? - 11/17/05

I realize that as time goes on the Bush administration is looking more and more like a secret attempt to discredit the Republican Party, but even they wouldn't come out with a scheme to do pesticide testing on orphans and mentally handicapped children.

Snopes on "Terror in the Skies" - 07/26/04

From Snopes:


Claim: Reporter encounters terrorists on airline flight who are making a dry run at assembling a bomb on-board.

Status: False.

Really.