Obama Hopes Certificate Will End 'Birther' Questions

President Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate Wednesday. He's hoping to quiet lingering questions about his nationality. The questions were re-kindled in recent weeks by Donald Trump. The president warned Americans not to get distracted by what he calls "sideshows" and "carnival barkers."

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President Obama finally released the long-form version of his birth certificate yesterday. The document from a Hawaiian vault adds to other evidence proving the president was born in the USA. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: The president's original birth certificate is kept in a bound volume in the offices of the Hawaiian health department. The department doesn't usually make copies of this long-form document. But it made an exception for Mr. Obama this week. The president's personal lawyer flew to Honolulu to pick up the certified copies. And after the birth certificate was posted yesterday on the White House website, Mr. Obama went on live television to say yes, he was born in Hawaii.

President BARACK OBAMA: Now, normally I would not comment on something like this. Because obviously there's a lot of stuff swirling in the press on any given day, and, you know, I've got other things to do.

HORSLEY: But questions about the president's birthplace have been getting increasing amounts of airtime in recent weeks. The White House says those questions have gone from the conspiracy-ridden corners of the Internet to the mainstream news media.

That's largely because of Donald Trump, who's been stirring the pot in order to call attention to his own possible presidential campaign. Mr. Obama says he grew concerned that the birther charge was becoming a distraction from serious issues like unemployment or the budget deficit. By releasing his long-form birth certificate, he hopes to put a stop to that.

President OBAMA: I know that there's going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. But I'm speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness.

HORSLEY: Some Republican strategists, like Karl Rove, had been equally unhappy about Trump's focus on the president's birthplace. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says it was at least as damaging to the GOP as it was to Mr. Obama.

Mr. DAN PFEIFFER (Communications Director, White House): If all you were concerned about were politics, the best thing to do would probably be to sit back and let this absurd debate continue to marginalize the Republican Party. But the president's concerned about a lot more than politics.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama also took the news media to task yesterday. And some journalists say he has a point. Clara Jeffery is co-editor of Mother Jones magazine, which devotes its cover story this month to the persistence of misinformation in today's politics. Jeffery says by manufacturing a controversy over the president's birthplace, when there really is no controversy, media enablers helped to keep the story alive.

Ms. CLARA JEFFERY (Co-editor, Mother Jones): It gives a sort of fig leaf to people that believe it already, that it is being talked about rather than being ignored. I mean, I think the media is in somewhat of a tough position there, because you can't ignore a phenomenon that is part of the American political landscape.

But a lot of the coverage treats it as part of horse-race, you know, who's up, who's down in the polls, oh my gosh, you know, Donald Trump is doing better than we thought. That kind of coverage doesn't do much to dispel the falsities.

HORSLEY: Yesterday, in New Hampshire, Trump himself faced some tough questions about his boast that his investigation of the president's birthplace would produce big surprises. Trump was asked why anyone should trust him now.

Unidentified Man: Were you making this up? Where did this information come from?

Mr. DONALD TRUMP (Businessman): No. I think what you're going to see - first we have to look at the certificate, but I am really happy that this has finally taken place because we have some issues that are unbelievably important.

Unidentified Man: You didn't answer my question, sir. You said...

Mr. TRUMP: No, I think I did. No, I did answer your question.

HORSLEY: One group that can finally stop answering questions is the staff of the Hawaiian health department. Director Loretta Fuddy says they've been swamped with inquiries about the president's birth certificate. Now that it's on the Internet, she hopes those questions will stop.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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