There’s a real doozy of a “news story” making the rounds through e-mails and on right-wing websites. It claims that an Occidental College shows proof that Barack Obama registered there as an undergraduate under the name “Barry Soetoro,” and as a foreign student. Aha! Here is the smoking gun proof, the posts declare, that Barack Obama is a foreigner, not an American, and not constitutionally fit to be our President!
An example of the short form of this story, posted April 22 2009, can be found at Anti-Jihad Resistance:
The Coalition for Freedom of Information referred to in this post is an amateur UFO research group which hasn’t issued any press releases since 2007. Its avowed research agenda regards interstellar travel, exobiology, extraterrestrial intelligence and “unidentified aerial phenomena,” not the character of Barack Obama’s college application.
Notice that the provided hyperlinks are for another right-wing website (which has nothing at all on this “story”) and two general web pages for Occidental College, neither of which has any information on this supposed document. No webpage at Occidental College provides this supposed information or even references the claim.
AP- WASHINGTON D.C. – In a move certain to fuel the debate over Obama’s qualifications for the presidency, the group “Americans for Freedom of Information” has released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College. Released today, the transcript indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate at the school. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship. This document would seem to provide the smoking gun that many of Obama’s detractors have been seeking.
The news has created a firestorm at the White House as the release casts increasing doubt about Obama’s legitimacy and qualification to serve as president. When reached for comment in London, where he has been in meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama smiled but refused comment on the issue. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at the report stating that this was obviously another attempt by a right-wing conservative group to discredit the president and undermine the administration’s efforts to move the country in a new direction.
Britain’s Daily Mail has also carried the story in a front-page article titled, “Obama Eligibility Questioned”, leading some to speculate that the story may overshadow economic issues on Obama’s first official visit to the U.K.
Over at Free Republic, they’re posting this “story” and praying, “LORD, GOD, PLEASE MULTIPLY THE SPREAD OF THIS INFO INTO EVERY EVEN PARTIALLY PATRIOTIC AMERICAN’S CONSCIOUSNESS, IN Your Name, Lord.”
But there is no such article at the Daily Mail, there is no record of Robert Gibbs making any such statement, there is no such group as the Americans for Freedom of Information, and finally, of course, there is no record of any such Associated Press story actually being written.
A prototype of this “story” appeared in January 2009 with the same contention that Barack Obama registered as “Barry Soetoro” as a freshman at Occidental College:
Even Occidental College states that Newsweek reported that Barry entered their college as BARRY SOETORO under his Indonesian passport and NOT as Barack Obama.
That’s a triple-indirect flip, if you’re into scoring referential gymnastics: a poster referring to Occidental College referring to Newsweek making a claim. Follow that link, of course, and you’ll see that Occidental College makes no such claim in the article. The most Occidental College says on that web page is that back in his college days, Barack Obama at first went by his nickname “Barry.” Horrors! Catastrophe appalling! But since the target audience of this “news story” is people who don’t actually check links and facts, it doesn’t matter that the factual claim is bogus. It has the form and appearance of truth, and so it will be repeated as truth. That’s the goal.
It’s all a hoax, and a pretty transparent one at that for anyone who pays attention. Yet for months now, in various forms, this “story” has been e-mailed and dittoed and posted and reposted all over the right-wing web. Why? For people who feel deep down in their gut that this uppity black man with an Arabic-sounding (but actually African) last name cannot possibly be a “real American,” falsehood rings more truly than the truth itself. Rather than abandon their bigotry and conspiracy theories about Islamofascist puppet government, they’ll hug the stinking lies tighter than they would their own mother. So yes, you can expect to see this completely false “breaking news” popping up over, and over, and over again, far into the future.