Liberal blogger Mike Stark filmed an online video that portrayed eleven Republican members of Congress as being evasive when asked whether or not they believe President Obama is an American citizen. In it, Stark attempted to prove that Republican politicians are held hostage by conservative conspiracy theorists who believe Obama's certificate of birth is invalid, and is thus unqualified to be President. The video received wide attention, and was seen as a smoking gun by critics who relish in ridiculing what they have titled the "birther" conspiracy movement.
A closer look at the video reveals that much of the seemingly incriminating footage is the result of selective video editing, falsification of identities, and outright mischaracterization.
For example, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Was.) was put in the video for 25 seconds, giving an unclear answer to the question posed by Stark as to whether or not Obama is a citizen.
"If we're in America and we are free, and we allow people to say - I mean, people stand on the sidewalk, and this gentleman gets to show" - Reichert gestured towards a protester on the sidewalk where the filming was taking place - "gets to stand for what he believes in in the way he decides to, because we're in America."
However, Stark's unedited interview with Reichert lasted almost 5 minutes, during which he gave a definitive answer as to whether or not he believes Obama is a citizen: "I believe he is, because I haven't seen any proof that says that he's not."
Evidence provided by those who do question Obama's citizenship is scanty at best. Their vigilant attitude has been compared to the "9/11 truther" theorists and to those who question Trig Palin's true parentage. Stark's video characterizes Republican Members of Congress as buying into "birther" theories because the Members do seemingly do not deny their frivolous claims outright.But nearly all of the Members who were characterized as siding with the "birthers" by Stark said they actually do not agree with them.
"He was running to catch a vote, not to get away from this guy," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who was filmed jogging up the Capitol steps as Stark accosted him.
But that wasn't even the begining of Stark's mischaracterization of Price. The Congressman was filmed in two different screens, first jogging with Stark along a sidewalk, and then up the Capitol steps by himself. However, the first jogging scene along the sidewalk wasn't actually Price.
"Yes, that is him running," said John Foster, a spokesman for Rep. Walt Minnick, confirming that his boss was the one misrepresented as Price. Minnick is a junior Democrat from Idaho, and was jogging to catch a vote as a member of the financial services committee. He apparently wasn't even asked by Stark as to his feelings on Obama's origin of birth.
In the video, Rep. Aaron Schock, (R-Il.) responded to Stark's queries about Obama's citizenship with the following: "That's a question he needs to answer, not me...He said he was, so I believe he was."
Dave Natonski, Schock's spokesman, said the Congressman’s views were much more definitive.
"Congressman Schock believes President Obama was born in the United States," he said.
Yet Progress Illinois' headline was critical: "Schock In The Birther Brigade?"
Other bloggers had similarly critical takes.
"The video makes clear that the Republican Party is captive to their conspiracy theory-mongering base all the way up to the top," said blogger Jane Hamsher, who posted Stark's video on her site Firedoglake.com.
"I'm tempted to say that this is the sort of issue that creates a lot of noise, but actually doesn't have much of a following. But measuring it against the contraction in GOP party ID, you can't really be sure," said Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Atlantic.