Other Eligibility Claims



Claim: Why was Obama's first Executive order to ban the release of his personal records? Why did he seal his birth certificate, school records and other evidence that he is not a United States citizen?

One of President Obama's first Official Acts was to sign Executive Order 13489 on Presidential Records. This EO replaced President George W. Bush's more restrictive regulations on the treatment of Presidential Records. It actually restored accessibility to many presidential records that were restricted by the previous president. It made presidential and vice presidential papers LESS secret. It reset rules covering presidential papers back to the way it was under Reagan. It UNCONCEALED presidential papers that Bush wanted kept secret. Bush's EO restricted Presidential papers longer than the 12 years the law allowed, added VP papers, let heirs and estates decide whether or not to keep records secret, and was the subject of several lawsuits. Obama's EO made those lawsuits unnecessary.

The text of the Executive order says: 

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish policies and procedures governing the assertion of executive privilege by incumbent and former Presidents in connection with the release of Presidential records by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) pursuant to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, it is hereby ordered... 

According to the law authorizing treatment of Presidential Records, The Presidential Records Act of 1978

The term "Presidential records" means documentary materials, or any reasonably segregable portion thereof, created or received by the President, his immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise and assist the President, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.... (B) does not include any documentary materials that are ... (ii) personal records... 

 (3) The term "personal records" means all documentary materials, or any reasonably segregable portion thereof, of a purely private or nonpublic character which do not relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.... (C) materials relating exclusively to the President’s own election to the office of the Presidency.

SO -- the Presidential Records Act has never applied to records before the election of a new president, or to personal records, or to childhood or school records. Obama signing this EO did not seal or hide any of his personal documents such as birth certificates, school records, records as a lawyer or legislator. What the EO DID do was to cancel the restrictions that George W Bush put on presidential records in EO # 13233 from November 2001, and roll the regulations back to Reagan's order #12667. Bush's EO placed restrictions: Obama's lifted those restrictions. The information about Nixon's and Johnson's archives that have been coming out this year are because the restrictions were lifted. Bush said that former presidents and their estates could still claim executive privilege: Obama's EO says only the current President could. 

Here's some quotes from historians and researchers about this EO: 

On January 21, in one of his first official acts, President Barack Obama revoked the Bush administration’s Executive Order 13233 that severely limited access by the public to presidential records.

"President Obama firmly committed his administration to a new policy of transparency by symbolically issuing the executive order on his first full day in office. The issuance of the Obama presidential records executive order ends a nearly eight year effort by historians, archivists, political scientists and other stakeholders in federal courts and on Capitol Hill to have the Bush EO revoked on legal grounds or by statute. 

The Obama executive order restores the presumption that the incumbent president, not former presidents, their heirs or designees should be the one asserting claims of executive privilege. The executive order states that only “living” former Presidents can make claims of executive privilege. This removed one of the most egregious sections of the Bush EO that allowed heirs or designees to make claims of executive privilege for an indefinite period after the death of a former President.

In addition, the provisions in the Bush EO allowing former vice presidents to assert executive privilege are gone. In fact, the Obama EO makes it clear that vice presidential records are to be included under the definition of “presidential records.”  The National Coalition for History

On Day One, Obama Overturns Era of White House Secrecy

"Obama also signed an "Executive Order on Presidential Records" that removes many of the barriers to public access to documents of past administrations. "This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends," a White House press release said. 

That's an allusion to the Bush administration's novel interpretation of the Watergate-era law that allowed current and former vice presidents, including George H.W. Bush, to assert executive privilege to bar release of historic documents."  Editor and Publisher

Obama Overturns Bush Order on Presidential Records

In one of his first official acts as president, Barack Obama has overturned a controversial executive order in which former President George W. Bush limited public access to presidential records... Mr. Obama’s move will gladden the hearts of historians, who have vigorously protested the Bush order. The Chronicle of Higher Education


Claim: Obama claimed, for 17 years that he was born in Kenya. He reviewed his bio with the publicist at least a half dozen times.

In 1991, Barack Obama was a newly minted graduate from the Harvard Law School and an unknown unpublished author looking for a publishing contract. He hired publicists Acton & Dystel (now Dystel & Goderich) to shop his book proposal around to publishers. The agency included a picture and short bio in a booklet distributed to the publishing industry. The text of the bio said: 

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.

Obama was listed as being born in Kenya on the Dyster & Goderich website's Client List until April 2007, "just two months after then-Senator Obama declared his campaign for the presidency." From Breitbart.com, "The Vetting"

According to Miriam Goderich, she wrote the bio herself

"You're undoubtedly aware of the brouhaha stirred up by Breitbart about the erroneous statement in a client list Acton & Dystel published in 1991 (for circulation within the publishing industry only) that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me -- an agency assistant at the time. There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. I hope you can communicate to your readers that this was a simple mistake and nothing more."

So does this mean that in 1991 Barack Obama was claiming to have been born in Kenya? Hardly. In 1990, Obama was elected as the first black President of the Harvard Law Review. This made national (and international) news. Hundreds of newpapers and magazines from large to small published articles about this major milestone.

The Bio was from a publicist's booklet distributed at publishing industry functions in 1991. It touted a book that was never written. The content from the booklet was carried over to the agency's website, and appeared long after the publicist no longer worked for Obama. Some see something nefarious in that: I see an error that never got corrected. There was no reason for anyone outside of Chicago to care about the birthplace of an unpublished author from 1991 to 1995 (when his book was published), then until 2004 when he was the keynote speaker at the Democratic Convention. In all that time, Barack Obama himself never said he was born in Kenya. 

Here are just a few much more prominant publications that claimed Obama was born in Hawaii: 

The new president of the Review is Barack Obama, a 28-year-old graduate of Columbia University who spent four years heading a community development program for poor blacks on Chicago's South Side before enrolling in law school. His late father, Barack Obama, was a finance minister in Kenya and his mother, Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist now doing fieldwork in Indonesia. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii. The New York Times, Feb. 6, 1990

Born in Hawaii to the late Barack Obama, once a finance minister in Kenya, and Ann Dunham, an American anthropologist, Obama went to Columbia University before moving to Chicago to work as a community organizer. Chicago Tribune, February 07, 1990

His own upbringing is a blending of diverse cultures. Born in Hawaii, where his parents met in college, Obama was named Barack (blessed in Arabic) after his father. The elder Obama was among a generation of young Africans who came to the United States to study engineering, finance and medicine, skills that could be taken back home to build a new, strong Africa. In Hawaii, he married Obama's mother, a white American from Wichita, Kan. LA Times, March 19, 1990

Born in Hawaii -- his late father, Barack Obama Sr. was a Kenyan finance minister and his mother Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist -- Columbia College Today, Fall 1990

At the head of this effort [Project Vote] was a little-known 31-year-old African-American lawyer, community organizer, and writer: Barack Obama. The son of a black Kenyan political activist and a white American anthropologist, Obama was born in Hawaii, received a degree in political science and English literature from Columbia University, and, in 1990, became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. In 1984, after Columbia but before Harvard, Obama moved to Chicago. Chicago Magazine January 1993

In addition, Obama finally published his book in 1995, titled not Journeys in Black and White (the title the agency was shopping around in 1991) but Dreams from my Father. The book tour and publicity featured Obama's life story, including birth in Hawaii. 

"A sharp eye and a generous heart distinguish this memoir by Chicago civil rights attorney Barack Obama,who was born in Hawaii in 1961 to a black African father and a white American mother and who became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review." Los Angeles Times August 7, 1995

Illinois State Senator Barack Obama's web site on October 1, 1999:

Obama Senate Page


Claim: In the 2004 Illinois Senate Race, Alan Keyes said to Barack Obama: "You are not even a Natural born citizen” to which Barack Obama replied: “That’s OK, I am not running for president, I am only running for Senate.”

 This one is simple. Keyes and Obama had a total of 3 debates. The Illinois Candidates Debate took place on October 21, 2004, sponsored by the League of Women Votors, videotaped by CSPAN, and broadcast live on WLS-TV, the ABC affiliate in Chicago, IL.  

Despite claims that the incident was off camera or scrubbed from the Internet, the following exchange is the source for this rumor.  Actual quote from both the video and transcript: 

OBAMA: I don’t need Mr. Keyes lecturing me about Christianity. That’s why I have a pastor. That’s why I have my Bible. That’s why I have my own prayer. And I don’t think that any of you are particularly interested in having Mr. Keyes lecture you about your faith.

What you’re interested in is solving problems like jobs, and health care, and education. I’m not running to be the minister of Illinois. I’m running to be its United States Senator.

Transcript, CSPAN Video  at 45:30

Alan Keyes says the exchange never took place. You'd think if it did happen, Keyes would be the first to jump on it since he DID sue Obama over eligibility. See the now-multiply dismissed and definitively dead case, Keyes v Obama: Complaint, and LoyaltoLiberty.com, Keyes's website. Although the website and suit repeat many traditional birther rumors, Keyes has always denied that he mentioned Obama's citizenship in these debates. 

All three debates:

  1. Oct 12, 2004 Alan Keyes and Barack Obama debate, hosted by Illinois Radio Network
  2. Oct 21, 2004 U.S. Senate debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Illinois
  3. Oct 26, 2004 Debate sponsored by WTTW and the City Club of Chicago

Tom Hoefling, Campaign Chair for Alan Keye's Senate Campaign says that the rumored exchange never happened. 


Your instincts are right. That exchange never happened. It was the invention of somebody on the internet, one which seems to have sort of taken on a life of its own.

Thanks for your diligence in getting at the truth. 

Tom Hoefling 
Chairman, America's Independent Party 
Chairman, Alan Keyes for President 2008 

Barack Obama gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004 and intantly became a political celebrity. Pundits and politcos starting looking at him for a possible presidential or vice-presidential run. Had this exchange taken place as originally rumored, both online and offline news media would have noticed. The oldest sighting of this appears in a Youtube video dated December 11, 2008. 



Claim: AP says Obama is Kenyan-born! According to the Associated Press, Obama was saying he was born in Kenya before he decided to run for President.  October 2009. This was an AP story so it was syndicated world-wide. 

Dewey Beats Truman, Redux

This article was published in the online Sunday Standard (Nairobi, Kenya) on July 27, 2004.  The original article that the AP issued said nothing about Kenyan-born -- that was added by an over-zealous local editor (who also mispelled Obama's name). The same publication issued a correction and discussion in the next issue (and mispelled the headline).

Here's the beginning of the original article. Except for the title and the first word, there's no other reference to Kenya. (The actual artical is quite long, only the first few paragraphs are repeated here.) 

Kenyan-born Obama all set for US Senate

Kenyan-born US Senate hopeful, Barrack Obama, appeared set to take over the Illinois Senate seat after his main rival, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race on Friday night amid a furor over lurid sex club allegations.

The allegations that horrified fellow Republicans and caused his once-promising candidacy to implode in four short days have given Obama a clear lead as Republicans struggled to fetch an alternative.

Ryan’s campaign began to crumble on Monday following the release of embarrassing records from his divorce. In the records, his ex-wife, Boston Public actress Jeri Ryan, said her former husband took her to kinky sex clubs in Paris, New York and New Orleans.

"It’s clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race," Ryan, 44, said in a statement. "What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign – the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play..."

In the July 4, 2004 issue, the Sunday Standard printed a correction of the Kenyan-Born description and used the opportunity to editorialize why Barack Obama was not Kenyan.  

Left’s face it, Obama is not ‘our own’

By Wallace Kantai

It is looking increasingly likely that Barrack Obama will be elected in November as Senator of the State of Illinois. The number of prospective voters has increased after his presumptive opponent in the election was felled by accusations of sexual impropriety.

Simultaneous with Obama’s rising stature is the increasing desire by Kenyans to identify with him. Typical newspaper headlines and messages flying around the Internet tend to lead with the theme "Kenyan-linked", or "Kenyan-American", or even, erroneously, "Kenyan-born".

People like identifying with winners, especially when they can be linked to them in a direct way. However, Kenyans are mistaken in attempting to claim Mr Barrack Obama as one of their own, for two very important reasons...

First, the only link that Obama has to Kenya is so tenuous as to almost be nonsensical. If you haven’t heard the story by now, the short version is that his father was a Kenyan scholar in the United States, who married an American woman, and left them when Obama was a toddler. He was brought up mainly by his grandparents and went through a difficult childhood and early adulthood, including a visit to Kenya to attempt to understand his now-deceased father...

More importantly, we have little claim to Obama as a Kenyan given our track record of how we treat those who attempt to fit into the Kenyan fabric, when their ancestry is elsewhere. We have such a negative reaction to immigrants that xenophobia could easily be part of our central political message...

Kenyans are entitled to support Obama and to celebrate the proximity of a Kenyan descendant at the centre of American power, but they should do so in the full knowledge that they are hypocrites.

The Associated Press (AP) provides news services to its clients, who then use the copy in various ways. It's common for local papers to rewrite some of the AP copy to add local "hooks" or connections. That's what the AP says happened in this article. No other newspaper in the world has ever been found with the same headline and lead. 

Dr. Orly Taitz submitted this article in one of her birther cases in Santa Ana District Court (CA). The Orange County Register, a regular chronicler of all things Orly, contacted the Associated Press about the Sunday Standard article. Paul Colford, director of media relations for the Associated Press said:

“The AP has never reported that President Obama was born in Kenya. In fact, AP news stories about the state of Hawaii have confirmed that he was born there. The Kenyan paper that you cite rewrote a 2004 AP story, adding the phrase ‘Kenyan-born.’ That wording was not in the AP version of the story.” 

Here's the article from the wire service, as the AP actually sent it out. Note that Barack is spelled correctly, there is a byline with the writer's name and city, and Obama isn't mentioned in the headline or in the story until the seventh paragraph. 

June 26, 2004 Saturday
Final Edition

Illinois Senate candidate drops out of race; Sex club charges left Ryan ‘a dead man walking’



LENGTH: 456 words

CHICAGO — Illinois Senate candidate Jack Ryan dropped out of the race Friday amid a furor over lurid sex club allegations that horrified fellow Republicans and caused his once-promising candidacy to implode in four short days.

“It’s clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race,” Ryan, 44, said in a statement. “What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign — the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play...”

Top Illinois Republicans immediately began the work of selecting a new candidate. Their choice will become an instant underdog against Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama in the campaign for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. Obama held a wide lead even before the scandal broke...

Bottom line: Newspapers make mistakes, just ask President Dewey. 

(Of course, since Obama Jr. was born of a Kenyan father, he is Kenyan-born, not Kenya-born or born in Kenya.)

Additional debunking: Snopes


Why won't Obama release his college transcripts? What's he hiding? 

1. As no other presidential candidate has ever voluntarily released school records while running for office, one reason Obama hasn't released his is that he's sticking with tradition. Usually such documents appear in the presidential libraries long after their terms are up. Candidates whose transcripts were made public never authorized their release -- they were "obtained" by less-than-legal means.

  • George W. Bush's Yale transcript was "obtained" by The New Yorker in 1999. 
  • John Kerry's was included in his Navy file, in his application to the service. Kerry gave permission to release the file to The Boston Globe in 2005 but probably didn't realize his Yale grades were there.
  • Al Gore's Harvard transcrit was illegally obtained by the Washington Post in 2000.
  • Rick Perry's Texas A&M University grades were passed to the Huffington Post without his permission in 2011.

We aren't aware of any other candidate's grades being made public. McCain declined to release his. Palin never even released the colleges she attended.

2. There's no political upside in releasing grades. They won't convince anyone to change their vote one way or the other. Supporters won't desert a candidate if the grades are subpar, detractors will find something to hone in on and hijack the news cycle for weeks. Candidates rightly claim such issues are distractions. 

What would Obama's transcripts show? He didn't get honors so he must not have had great grades.

1. Transcripts don't show citizenship, religion, affirmative action, or sources of payment (other than academic prizes). They don't show if someone attended as a foreign student. They show courses taken, grades and degrees earned. That's about it. 

2. Obama attended Occidental College for two years then transferred to Columbia University. Students at Columbia have to spend more than two years at Columbia to qualify for Latin Honors. Obama could have gotten straight A's at Occidental and Columbia and still wouldn't have graduated with honors. He was ineligible as he hadn't spent enough time resident at Columbia. (Most colleges have similar policies. They restrict the numbers of Honors graduates to maintain the quality of Honors degrees.) Harvard Law Admissions understands things like that.

3. Barack Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. That's the top 10% by grades of the entire class, in the #2 Law School in the country in 1991. By almost any measure, that's brilliant. Romney graduated cum laude from HLS and in the top 5% of his MBA class at Harvard Business School. He's also brilliant by almost any measure.

But wasn't he a poor student? How could he get into Harvard Law without honors? 

Obama and people who knew him at Columbia and Occidental uniformly say that while he was a party boy at Oxy, he knuckled down and studied at Columbia. He really shone by the time he entered HL. 

Obama's professors and classmates at Columbia, including former international politics professor Michael Baron and broadcast executive and economist Michael Wolf, confirm that he was a brilliant, standout student and that he was an active participant in seminars. Baron said he was one of the top one or two students in his class. More on Obama's time at Occidental and Columbia.

Ivy league schools weigh many factors, it's not just grades and scores. They try to get a good economic and experiential mix in each class. In between Columbia and Harvard, Obama worked for a business consulting company, NYPIRG (NY Public Interest Research Group), and was the first Executive Director of the Developing Communities Project. More on Obama's career after Columbia.

What about foreign student aid? Didn't Obama pay for college with foreign aid?

Even if Obama's grades were released, you couldn't tell what aid he received. Not only doesn't student aid appear on college transcripts, but foreign undergrads aren't eligible for US student aid. (Fulbright scholarships are for graduate study.) Colleges like foreign students because they pay full price.

Foreign students who get aid from their own countries typically have to pledge to return to their own country and work for a number of years. Obama wasn't eligible for aid from Indonesia or Kenya either, as those countries don't provide aid to undergraduates studying overseas. 

There was no need for Obama to claim he was a foreign student. Obama was eligible for US student aid as a US student as he graduated from a US high school and was a US citizen. As a black basketball-playing student from one of Hawaii's best schools, plus with a single mother in a low-paying academic job (as she was in 1979-1981), he would have no problem getting US student aid. (Although he lived with his grandparents, their income isn't counted towards student aid. Only the parents' income is.) 

Why has Obama sealed his records?

He hasn't. His school records are as sealed as your records are. There's nothing special about how Obama's records are protected. According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), passed in 1974, colleges can't release transcripts to anyone (including parents of children over 18) without the permission of the student. 

One way to tell that no records have been sealed -- try to find the lawsuits and court orders actually sealing the records. Such court orders are public. You won't find any, because the records are just as sealed any other citizen's records.

What about Obama's Executive Order sealing all his records?
We have an entire section on that rumor. See Executive Order #13489

CLAIM:  The Supreme Court has openly admitted that they are evading the issue of Obama's eligibility. Under Construction

Birthers point to this clip as evidence that the Supreme Court is deliberately avoiding the Obama Eligibity Question. The truth is that this is a very long running joke between US Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY) and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas about Rep. Serrano's own eligibility to be president.

Rep. Serrano was born in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. Puerto Rico is a special case, as it is unincorporated territory. VP Charles Curtis was born in Kansas Territory, but Kansas was incorporated territory at the time. Same for Barry Goldwater, born in Arizona Territory. All persons born in Puerto Rico between April 11, 1899, and January 12, 1941, are automatically conferred citizenship as of the date the law was signed by the President (June 27, 1952). Additionally, all persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941, are natural-born citizens of the United States. Their eligibility to serve as President of the United States, however, has never been addressed. 

Fiscal Year 2011 Supreme Court Budget Hearing (April 25, 2010) Video at    

Fiscal Year 2010 Supreme Court Budget Hearing (April 27, 2009) Video at 1:20 

Fiscal Year 2009 Supreme Court Budget Hearing (March 2008) Video at 2:30

Fiscal Year 2008 Supreme Court Budget Hearing (March 2007) Video at 2:20 to 3:05