A year after he put “birther” rumors to rest by releasing his birth certificate, President Obama’s background is back in the news again … with a twist.
An old bio of Obama from his former literary agent says he was born in Kenya, renewing debate over the authenticity of his own account(s) of his past.
You could essentially call this “reverse birtherism.”
In 2011, Obama proved he was born in the U.S., but did he lie in the past about being Kenyan-born to craft a more exotic, interesting-sounding background?
According to a booklet produced by Acton & Dystel, to showcase its roster of writers, Obama was “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”
Obama’s former literary agency says they merely misidentified his birthplace as Kenya while trying to promote the then-Harvard Law grad in 1991.
Miriam Goderich edited the text of the bio; she is now a partner at the Dystel & Goderich agency, which lists Obama as one of its current clients.
“This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me – an agency assistant at the time,” Goderich wrote in an emailed statement to Yahoo News.
“There was never any information given to us by Obama suggesting he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii … [it was] a simple mistake and nothing more.”
Breitbart.com, the site founded by the late Andrew Breitbart, broke this story as part of “The Vetting,” its ongoing series about Obama’s past.
Essentially, that being to ask tough questions about Obama’s background, rather than accepting the Presidential candidate’s two memoirs as gospel.
Breitbart.com published a lengthy disclaimer with the brochure and this story, saying it does not believe Obama was actually born outside of the U.S.:
“Andrew Breitbart was never a ‘Birther,’ and Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of ‘Birtherism,'” the site clarified.
“In fact, Andrew believed, as we do, that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961. Yet Andrew also believed that the complicit mainstream media had refused to examine President Obama’s ideological past, or the carefully crafted persona he and his advisers had constructed for him.”
“It is for that reason that we launched The Vetting, an ongoing series in which we explore the ideological background of President Obama (and other candidates) – not to re-litigate 2008, but because ideas and actions have consequences.”
“It is also in that spirit that we discovered, and now present, the booklet described below – one that includes a marketing pitch for a forthcoming book by a then-young, otherwise unknown former president of the Harvard Law Review.”
“It is evidence – not of the President’s foreign origin, but that Barack Obama’s public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times.”
While this publication will no doubt fuel “birthers” who refuse to believe Obama was born in the U.S., but the point is actually entirely separate.
Is it really possible that the full bio below would never have been proofread by Obama in the 16 years it was used (it was corrected in 2007)?
Make of it what you want, but if that’s an error, as the publisher claims, it’s a pretty bad one, and raises some rather legitimate questions.
We cannot know whether the publisher and/or Obama himself were aware of the error, but the idea that one or both allowed the “mistake” to slide to make his biography more compelling is not entirely far-fetched.
The broader questions:
- Has Obama’s biography, which also included a “composite” of past girlfriends (one of which was Genevieve Cook) shifted to meet his needs over time?
- If so, what are the implications of that on his ability to be President? Does it make him different from any other politician? Does that matter?
Here’s Obama’s full bio from the 1991 brochure:
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.
The son of an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, he attended Columbia University and worked as a financial journalist and editor for Business International Corporation.
He served as project coordinator in Harlem for the New York Public Interest Research Group, and was Executive Director of the Developing Communities Project in Chicago’s South Side. His commitment to social and racial issues will be evident in his first book, Journeys in Black and White.
NOTE: This report is NOT connected to the new book about Obama, called The Amateur by Ed Klein. A story about Obama’s near-divorce, excerpted from that new and unauthorized biography, surfaced late last week.