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White House, Hawaii again try to deal with 'birther' questions about Obama

Officials point to evidence that the president is a naturally born U.S. citizen. But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs admits there's probably nothing that will silence the persistent chatter.

July 29, 2009|Mark Silva

WASHINGTON — It is the Internet rumor that has been discredited but will not die: President Obama is not a naturally born U.S. citizen and therefore constitutionally is not qualified to serve.

This week, months after the allegations first cropped up on the Web and talk radio, the White House and Hawaii officials addressed the rumor -- with the state's health director saying that she had reviewed the records in question and found that they verified Obama was born in Hawaii.

At the same time, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, there probably was nothing that would quiet the disbelievers.

"If I had some DNA, it wouldn't assuage those that don't believe he was born here," Gibbs told reporters Monday. "But I have news for them and for all of us: The president was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the 50th state of the greatest country on the face of the Earth. He's a citizen."

State officials had verified Obama's birth records when the question was raised before November's presidential election. Then Hawaii's health director said in a statement this week: "I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen. I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008, over eight months ago."

Despite Fukino's assurances, the state has been flooded in recent weeks with questions from individuals and the media seeking proof that Obama was born in Hawaii. State laws bar release of a certified birth certificate to anyone without a "tangible interest." The Obama campaign last year posted an electronic facsimile on the Internet in a bid to quell the rumors.

Skeptics who maintain that Obama was born in Kenya point to the confidentiality of the original record as an indication that the president must be hiding something.

Several lawsuits seeking to force Obama to release the records have been dismissed.

CNN commentator Lou Dobbs drew new attention to the issue last week when he told a caller on his radio show who asserted that Obama was Kenyan: "Certainly your view can't be discounted."

But the network's Kitty Pilgrim, on a segment of "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on Friday, called the question of the president's citizenship a "discredited rumor that won't go away."

"CNN has fully investigated the issue," Pilgrim said, and "found no basis for the questions about the president's birthplace."

The House of Representatives, in unanimously approving a resolution celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii becoming the 50th state on Monday, added its own voice to the question with the phrase: "Whereas the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Hawaii on Aug. 4, 1961."

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mdsilva@latimes.com

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