Thursday, December 04, 2008

Phony Balance Watch - Obama Citizenship Challenge

A right-wing nutcase lawsuit challenging Barack Obama's citizenship gets the phony balance treatment from the Chicago Tribune.

An effort to disqualify Obama for the presidency will reach its overdue end on Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to consider a lawsuit that claims Obama was either born outside of the United States, or later renounced his U.S. citizenship.

The suit originally sought to stay the election, and was filed on behalf of Leo Donofrio against New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells.

Legal experts say the appeal has little chance of succeeding, despite appearing on the court's schedule. Legal records show it is only the tip of an iceberg of nationwide efforts seeking to derail Obama's election over accusations that he either wasn't born a U.S. citizen or that he later renounced his citizenship in Indonesia.

The Obama campaign has maintained that he was born in Hawaii, has an authentic birth certificate, and is a "natural-born" U.S. citizen. Hawaiian officials agree.
Obama was born in Hawaii. His birth certificate demonstrates he was born in Hawaii. Having been born in Hawaii, Obama is a "natural-born" American citizen. These facts are not subject to interpretation.

But Tribune reporter James Janega chooses to present the facts as though they simply constitute one side of a legitimate controversy.

    The Obama campaign has maintained that he was born in Hawaii...
Janega's decision to present this fact as though it is open to dispute is identical to the journalistic treatment of a previous false allegation about Obama - that he is a Muslim.

In one prominent example, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon, Jr. wrote the following in November, 2007, about the Obama-is-a-Muslim rumor:

Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim, a "Muslim plant" in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible, as did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only Muslim in Congress, when he was sworn in earlier this year.


Obama aides sharply disputed the initial stories suggesting that he was a Muslim, and in Iowa, the campaign keeps a letter at its offices, signed by five members of the local clergy, vouching for the candidate's Christian faith.
Obama is not, and never has been, a Muslim. Yet in this widely-criticized story, Bacon presented the rumor as though it had as great a claim to legitimacy as the truth.

By presenting the facts of Obama's birth as though they are open to interpretation, the Chicago Tribune commits a similar act of journalistic malfeasance.

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