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Governor Abercrombie's inability to release Obama's birth certificate causes Hawaiian legislators to step in

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January 28, 2011

New Governor Neil Abercrombie made an inaugural promise to finish off conspiracy chatter once and for all. He admitted defeat, but Aloha state lawmakers have ideas of their own.

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

He campaigned on his friendship with the American President. When he won, the first issue was to clear up a lingering rumor of Barack Obama's birth. But what was Neil Abercrombie thinking?[1][2]

Hawaii's Democratic Governor made a point of telling the press he was going to lay stories that Barack Obama is not American by birth to rest once and for all.[3] It is the purview of a fringe of potently anti-Obama activists, a conspiracy in which Obama was born in Kenya and his powerful friends later forged the publicly available short-form birth certificate.[4][5] President Obama has consistently declined to authorize publishing the long form, though the 'Certificate of Life Birth' has been public since 2008 and two Honolulu newspapers ran announcements within days of the President's August 1961 birth. Hawaii's Department of Health has already made sworn statements about the President's American birth.[6][7]

And that's where things could have ended, with 'birthers' growing ever more marginalized and even the ideological opponents who would most like the see Obama out of office not condescending to imagine he was illegally elected.[8] A May 2010 poll put the percentage of American who have some commonality with 'birthers' at 14% and found half of those people are 'suspicious' but don't believe solid evidence exists. More striking, a third of people who doubt Obama's American birth still approve of his as a President.[9]

Governor Abercrombie's unexpected announcement that he would find a way to release the official Obama birth certificate may have inadvertently revitalized a dying issue.[10][11] Abercrombie's office said as much, announcing, “There is nothing more that Gov. Abercrombie can do within the law to produce a document. Unfortunately, there are conspirators who will continue to question the citizenship of our president."[12]

For one thing, ardent 'birthers' aren't going to concede they were wrong because the President's long-form birth certificate comes out. It would certainly be treated as just another forgery. Abercrombie echoed that when he spoke to CNN, telling them “Conspiratorial theorists are never going to be satisfied”. More to the point where Abercrombie's effort are concerned, no one but the individual can authorize the public release of a long form birth certificate. Just seeing it is usually limited to immediate family. And while the Governor may be the highest officer in the state, even he can't override that law, which was precisely the opinion that Hawaii's Attorney General delivered.[13]


Drive time radio provokes a small frenzy

That news led Abercrombie to announce he was ending his efforts to release the Presidential birth certificate, but it left pundits guessing what made the Governor think he would be able to publicize the document at all.[14] As Abercrombie was exhausting his final avenues regarding the long form birth certificate, telling press, "Our investigation is showing, it actually exists in the archives written down," an unexpected source stoked the embers.[15]

Mike Evans, who promotes himself as a 'celebrity journalist', told a Minnesota radio host on January 20, 2011 that Governor Abercrombie had told him, despite an extensive search and the use of all his executive powers, “there is no Barack Obama birth certificate in Hawaii, absolutely no proof at all that Obama was born in Hawaii.” Evans went on to say Abercrombie, a college friend of Obama's parents, also admitted he had no memory of seeing the future President in Hawaii before the child was around six years old.

Mike Evans discusses the Obama birth certificate beginning at 1:30, with the damaging quote at 2:43

Evans would later retract that statement, explaining that he had actually contacted Honolulu's two hospitals and that neither one had been able to produce the birth certificate for him. He added a personal apology to Governor Abercrombie for misspeaking on air and said he had not actually talked to the Governor at all.[16]

Mike Evans retracts his earlier statements, with explicit retraction beginning at 1:17.

If the law ties the Governor's hands, change the law

While Evans is either dismissed as a poor political reporter or hailed as a champion among 'birthers', some Hawaiians are rethinking the legality of releasing the birth certificate. A proposal among Hawaiian lawmakers would let all and sundry see the birth certificate while netting a profit for the state.

Representative Rida Cabanilla is the primary sponsor, along with four other Democrats, of a bill that would change the privacy law protecting politicians from casual snooping and prurient curiosity surrounding vital records. She says she hopes to end the 'birther' debate for good and that the fee, $100 a pop to see Barack Obama's official birth certificate, will offset the state's cost in dealing with frequent requests, often from the same person, for the document. Hawaii has already instituted a policy of ignoring repeat emails and phone calls from 'birther's who have been told once they can't legally see the birth certificate, a measure instituted under former Governor Linda Lingle to make a point of refusing to treat the conspiracy seriously as much a time and money saving step.[17]

Rep. Cabanilla feels Hawaii's legislators can accomplish something the office of the President could not be able to do; “All these people are still doubting it because they don't want the birth certificate from Obama. They want it from our state office”.[18]

Co-sponsor Rep. John Mizuno said he is open to any idea to increase the state's tax revenue in the current economic climate but that he wonders if the law can stand up to Hawaii's privacy protections. At the same time, Hawaii's Department of Health, the same agency that had already vouched for Obama's American birth twice, said requests for the birth certificate have dropped and currently run between zero and five per week.

HB 1116 essentially strips privacy expectations surrounding vital records for any candidate for an office that requires U.S. citizenship. That the American Presidency is the only office where citizenship must be so by birth and that the law would only apply to birth certificates in the state of Hawaii's possession would seem to make the bill's reach exceptionally precise.[19] However, Cabanilla's bill specifically names “a public office that requires the person to be a United States citizen, either natural born or naturalized”, meaning that, if passed, there will be substantial debate over the bill's application when the candidate was not born in Hawaii.

It is also possible the bill is designed to demonstrate a point about the undying rumors around the President's birth and the privacy implications of easing access to vital records. Should it move forward, the White House may step in. Whatever does happens to HB 1116, Governor Neil Abercrombie would still be the final signature passing it into law, meaning he may be the one to settle those 'birther' conspiracies after all.


  1. Slate, “Fun New Birther Conspiracy Based Upon Illiteracy”, January 21, 2011
  2. Hot Air, “Hawaii governor figures out that he’s barred by law from revealing Obama’s birth certificate”, January 24, 2011
  3. New York Times, “Hawaii’s Governor Takes On ‘Birthers’ ”, December 24, 2011
  4. PoliticFact, "Obama's birth certificate: Final chapter," June 27, 2008
  5. FactCheck, "Born in the U.S.A.," November 1, 2008
  6. USA Today “Hawaii: Obama birth certificate is real”, July 27, 2009
  7., "State declares Obama birth certificate genuine," October 31, 2008 (dead link)
  8. The Washington Post, "Eric Cantor: President Obama was born in the United States," January 23, 2011
  9. ABC News, "Poll: Half of 'Birthers' Call it 'Suspicion'; A Third Approve of Obama Anyway," May 7, 21010
  10. Yahoo, "Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie Makes Obama Birth Certificate Controversy Worse," January 27, 2011 (dead link)
  11. Associated Content, "Is Obama a Birther? Abercrombie Reignites Controversy, but Obama Does Nothing to Make it Go Away," January 25, 2011 (timed out)
  12. The Daily Caller, “Friend says Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie told him there is no Obama birth certificate”, January 25, 2011
  13. New York Daily News, “Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii governor drops mission to dispel birthers, prove Obama was born in state”, January 22, 2011
  14. HotAir, "Dopey Hawaii governor figures out new way to tease Birthers," January 21, 2011
  15. ABC News, "Hawaii Gov. Says Proof of Obama's Birth Certificate Exists but Hasn't Produced the Document," January 20, 2011
  16. Fox News, “Celebrity Journalist: I Never Spoke to Hawaii Gov About Obama Birth Certificate”, January 26, 2011
  17. New York Daily News, "Aloha 'Birthers': Hawaii law lets state ignore repeated demands for Obama's birth certificate," May 13, 2010
  18. The Guardian, “Hawaii lawmakers want release of Obama birth info”, January 28, 2011
  19., “Hawaii State Legislature 2011 Regular Session HB1116”," accessed January 28, 2011