Friday, December 19th, 2014

A few weak links in this chain e-mail

They're at it again: People who write, "Forward this to everyone you know!"
They're at it again: People who write, "Forward this to everyone you know!"

Despite overwhelming evidence that Barack Obama is eligible to be president, this issue simply won't die. In an April 2010 New York Times/CBS News poll, only 58 percent of Americans said they believed Barack Obama was born in the United States, and a full 20 percent of Americans said that they believed he was born in another country.

Maybe the color of his skin, his name and his complicated upbringing don't conform to some people's image of a "real American," as some commentators have suggested. Whatever the reason the truth is clear: Barack Obama was born in the United States, and the vast majority of legal scholars say he is unquestionably eligible to be president. But as long as the lies keep coming, we'll keep debunking them.

Birther conspiracy theories turn up frequently in chain e-mails, like the one we received from a reader that appeared to be a compilation of two earlier chain e-mails and provided us with several claims to fact-check:

An alleged AP article asserts that the Justice Antonin Scalia agreed that the Supreme Court would hear a case challenging Obama"s eligibility to be president. In reality, the article is fake, and the court did not agree to hear the case.

In the same "article" is a claim that that Obama was an Indonesian citizen and attended Occidental College as an undergraduate on a Fulbright scholarship. The falsehoods in that claim led us to consider actually dousing a pair of pants in gasoline and lighting them on fire in the Politifact office.

The last of our claims was the most interesting because it seemed theoretically possible. The e-mail argued that since Obama traveled to Pakistan in 1981, and Pakistan was on the U.S. State Department's "no travel list” in 1981, Obama must not have traveled to Pakistan as a U.S. citizen. We knew it was true that Obama traveled to Pakistan in 1981, so we checked to see if the rest of the claims were. Nope. It was perfectly legal to travel to Pakistan as a U.S. citizen in 1981.

While we are fully aware that our investigations will not end the birther fantasy, we can still try.