MSNBC’s Joy Reid noted yesterday that her colleague Chris Hayes established in 2007 that birtherism was created and promoted by the far-right. So are we really supposed to believe that skepticism about President Obama’s place of birth was the handiwork of…longtime Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal?
This dubious claim, now being relentlessly hyped by the right-wing blogosphere, originates from James Asher, a former Washington bureau chief for the McClatchy news service, who would have us believe that Blumenthal is the head birther-in-chief:
James Asher said that longtime Hillary Clinton personally told him to look into where President Obama was born back in 2008. Blumenthal and one unpaid volunteer are so far the only ones in Clinton’s sphere who have been alleged so far to have engaged in any birther talk during that election.
Well, Asher told McClatchy that not only did Blumenthal request they look into it, but they actually looked into it:
“During that meeting, Mr. Blumenthal and I met together in my office and he strongly urged me to investigate the exact place of President Obama’s birth, which he suggested was in Kenya. We assigned a reporter to go to Kenya, and that reporter determined that the allegation was false.
“At the time of Mr. Blumenthal’s conversation with me, there had been a few news articles published in various outlets reporting on rumors about Obama’s birthplace. While Mr. Blumenthal offered no concrete proof of Obama’s Kenyan birth, I felt that, as journalists, we had a responsibility to determine whether or not those rumors were true. They were not.”
Blumenthal responded by telling McClatchy, “This is false. Period.”
The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker certainly seems to think Asher’s claims are ten pounds of bull in a five-pound bag:
James Asher, former D.C. bureau chief of McClatchy, tweeted on Sept. 16 that Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal had met with him to ask for an investigation into birther rumors in 2008. Asher told McClatchy that Blumenthal “strongly urged” him to “investigate the exact place of President Obama’s birth, which he suggested was in Kenya.” McClatchy assigned a reporter to go to Kenya, and the reporter found the allegation was false, Asher said.
We reached out to Asher, but he did not respond to our requests for further explanation. Blumenthal, declining to elaborate further, said in a statement to The Fact Checker: “This is false. Period. Donald Trump cannot distract from the fact that he is the one who embraced and promoted the birther lie, and bears the responsibility for it.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I’d take Blumenthal’s credibility over that of Asher, who has a track record of embracing the ethically dubious Wikileaks and the far-right Daily Caller, downplaying the Holocaust denialism of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the class warfare of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, showing affinity for Russian propaganda sources and smearing the Clinton Foundation.
Of course, it’s profoundly unlikely that Blumenthal would encourage journalists to pursue a path of inquiry that a) was ridiculous on its face, b) would obviously lead nowhere and c) would make both himself and Clinton look like colossal fools.
Obviously, Blumenthal was, and is, a pro-Clinton partisan as well as a journalist. However, based on the last few months of Asher’s Twitter feed, which is long on attacks on Clinton and short on attacks on Trump, it seems that Asher is one of the legions of journalists who believe that when Clinton breathes (or coughs), she’s engaging in corruption.