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Birther Precedents


I was doing some rather pointless research on Chester A. Arthur this morning. On his Wikipedia page, I found this:

William Arthur’s frequent moves would later form the basis for accusations that Chester Arthur was not a native-born citizen of the United States. After Arthur was nominated for Vice President in 1880, his political opponents suggested that he might be constitutionally ineligible to hold that office. A New York attorney, Arthur P. Hinman, apparently hired by his opponents, explored rumors of Arthur’s foreign birth. Hinman initially alleged that Arthur was born in Ireland and did not come to the United States until he was fourteen years old, which would make him ineligible for the Vice Presidency under the United States Constitution’s natural-born citizen clause. When that story did not take root, Hinman spread a new rumor that Arthur was born in Canada, but this claim also failed to gain credence.

Who knew the nation had a birther controversy before Obama’s implacable opponents made false claims about him being born in Kenya. And to say in 1880 that a Republican was born in Ireland was not something to take lightly, given the Know-Nothing immersion into the Republican Party wasn’t that old and the strong anti-Irish sentiment in the nation at that time.

So I became curious about whether our current birthers looked back to the Arthur controversy for inspiration. Turns out the answer is yes indeed. Here’s a birther lawyer’s site titled “Natural Born Citizen” which explored Arthur’s history for angles to fight Obama, a post not coincidentally written in December 2008. The claims against Arthur are about as absurd as they are against Obama. Here’s a similar crazy person.

Sean Hannity used the Arthur controversy against Obama as late as last March (If Arthur produced a birth certificate, why can’t Obama!). Even The View weighed in on the ability of the lamb-chopped one to serve in the Oval Office.

This is probably as relevant as Chester Arthur has been since he left office in 1885. I don’t know how I didn’t catch this hilarity before. But I’m glad today Orly Taitz’s can look back to luminaries of the past for inspiration. I next expect someone to use the “Warren Harding is black” controversy against Obama in some way.

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