Blame the Media for the "Birther" Distraction


New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump has made waves by demanding that President Barack Obama produce his birth certificate and prove he is qualified to be commander-in-chief, but the media is mostly to blame for keeping untrue conspiracy on page one.

To be president, an individual must be a naturally born citizen of the United States. Several conservative fringe groups, or “birthers” as the media refers to them, have suggested that the President was not born in the United States. The idea is rejected by a majority of Americans and mainstream politicians; however, the issue has been granted enormous attention by the media and subsequently put candidates like Donald Trump in the spotlight.

Who is to blame for the distraction? Politics aside, it is likely a combination of guilty parties including the President, uninformed citizens, fringe candidates, and, mostly, the media. The President should have released the documentation years ago when Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised the question during the 2008 election cycle. Uninformed members of our society are to blame because they fail to accept any form of documentation for all the wrong reasons. Candidates, interested in capitalizing on anxious voters, perpetuate the issue and bring attention to it. 

The media are at most blame. Media’s function in a free society is to report on stories meaningful to Americans and to help inform them without bias or agenda. There has perhaps never been so much media coverage of an untrue issue in our nation’s history. The media ultimately provides the platform by which candidates and pundits spread their message. Without this platform, no one would know what Donald Trump thinks about the issue. What is perhaps most alarming is that some mainstream journalists seem to actually enjoy reporting on the issue and interviewing people promoting fringe ideas that distract from healthy political discourse.

How should mainstream GOP candidates handle the issue? Republicans like Mitt Romney should confront the issue, dismiss it, and shift the conversation to the important issues facing the country. Surprisingly, Sarah Palin did this in a speech she delivered in Long Island, New York, saying, “It’s distracting. It gets annoying. Let’s stick with what really matters.” There needs to be more of this from other GOP hopefuls, pundits, and the media. America is facing huge issues that will require healthy political discourse based on the issues, not focused on political smokescreens by a few.

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