Why Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is taking on anti-Obama 'birthers'

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie says he is disgusted by the 'birther' claims that President Obama was not born in the state. He's vowing to change state law in order to prove Obama right.

Marco Garcia/AP
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie gives his first press conference as governor on Dec. 6 in Honolulu. He has now said he will take on the claims of 'birthers.'

It's the rumor that won't go away, despite multiple investigations by fact-checking groups that declare it bogus: the claim that President Obama was not born in the US, and is therefore ineligible to be president.

Now, it's surfacing in the news yet again, this time thanks to the newly elected governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, who says he wants to end the debate once and for all.

His idea: Change state policy so that he can release additional proof (perhaps the "long form" birth certificate that so-called "birthers" have been requesting, which is not a public record in Hawaii) that Obama was born in Honolulu, and not in Kenya as conspiracy theorists claim.

The trouble is, the facts are out there already, and they haven't succeeded in quelling the certainty of those determined not to believe them. In addition to the "certificate of live birth" released by the Obama campaign when the rumors first started circulating – which groups like factcheck.org have concluded is authentic – there were two separate birth announcements in local papers at the time (Aug. 4, 1961).

The birther claims are mostly confined to a relatively small group on the fringe, but state legislators in a handful of states have also introduced legislation requiring political candidates to show their official birth certificate – an effort clearly targeting Obama.

And Hawaii's health department at one point was so besieged by birther requests to see Obama's birth certificate that former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) signed a law earlier this year allowing it to ignore them.

Governor Abercrombie is not acting at the request of the White House, whose official policy for some time has been to ignore the rumors rather than engage with what it sees as a bunch of conspiracy theorists.

On CNN yesterday, Abercrombie acknowledged that more documentation may not satisfy the birthers, but said he was acting because of his personal disgust with the claims and the fact that he knew Obama's parents back in college when Obama was born and is deeply offended at claims he knows to be false.

"It's a matter of principle with me. I knew his mom and dad. I was here when he was born. Anybody who wants to ask a question honestly could have had their answer already," he told CNN.

Still, it's very likely the governor's efforts will be poorly received by the White House, since they may just serve to put the rumors back in the news once again. And at least a few commentators have a more cynical take on Abercrombie's actions, suggesting that he's trying to push an image of Obama as victim of "right-wing zealots."

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