Deb Bhattacherjee, Katherine Dinges, Carolyn Harvey & Mrinal Khullar

Crisis Situation
• How the Obama Administration deals with claims that Barack Obama is not a

natural-born citizen of the United States.

Variety of theories
• Born in Kenya, Birth Certificate is forgery, Citizen of Indonesia

• “A believer in one of more conspiracy theory that Obama is not a natural-born citizen.”

Online Rumors

Ex. Thebirthers.org

American Sentiment
April 2011 - A quarter of all Americans think President Obama was not born in the United States (CBS News/ New York
Times poll)

Recovery Response
June 2008 Establishes Fightthesmears.com & Releases Short Form Birth Certificate April 2008 Clinton Supporter Suggests Obama was born in Kenya April 2011 Hawaii Releases Long Form Birth Certificate April 2011 Obama Critics Reject the Long Form November 2012 Re-election campaign intensifies

September 2011 Rick Perry Attention Right Wing Republican & Tea Party Attention

Primary Response

Feb 2007 Announces Presidential Campaign

Initial Response

Muslim Campaign

June 2004 DNC Speech

August 2008 Berg Files Lawsuits

November 2008 Obama Elected President





Democrat Base Republican Base Conservative Republicans/ Tea Party


American Public
Is this a legitimate issue? Will this affect Obama’s candidacy?? Will this affect Obama’s leadership?

Warning Phase
Previous Citizenship Speculation –
• Since 1787, has been confusion as to the precise meaning

of “natural-born citizen.” • Other Presidential Candidates Questioned – McCain – Born on a military base in Panama

Muslim Whisper Campaign –
• June 2004 - Obama’s DNC speech • Andy Martin in a press release “Obama is a Muslim who has

concealed his religion.” • December 2006 - Obama Considering Presidential Run • Ted Sampley posted a column suggesting Obama is a Muslim

Kenya Born Email
• Clinton Supporter circulates an email suggesting Obama was

born in Kenya
Trouble is brewing...

Initial Response
Obama launches fightthesmears.com
• June, 2008 launched an aggressive and innovative campaign

• Trigger was alleged Michelle Obama racial slur video
• Interactive tool allowed supporters to fight back • Published birth certificate on website – born in Hawaii in 1961

American Sentiment
• Mixed response • Rumors about fake certificate

Tell your side of the story...

Acute Phase
2008 Phillip Berg sued the DNC and Obama, stating –
• Obama is not a natural-born citizen
• Lost his citizenship when he was adopted in Indonesia;

and/or • Has dual loyalties because of his citizenship with Kenya and Indonesia • Filed injunction to suspend the election

“As his lawsuit remains
outstanding, the public will talk...want Obama to quickly prove me wrong or the court to quickly prove me right.‖ - P. Berg

White House Response –
• Filed a motion to dismiss Berg’s lawsuit.

Crisis is most intense...

Acute Phase
Hawaii Reprints Birth Announcement
• August 2008

• In response to persistent rumors, the

Advertiser posted a screenshot on its website • Rumors spread was planted to “intend to clear the way for the baby to someday be elected President of the United States.” – Star-Bulletin

Obama Elected President
• November 2008 • Increased the coverage of the issue...

Political Media/Celebrity Media
• WorldNetDaily – Published more than 200

articles by July 2009 • Charlie Sheen to Chuck Norris

"Refusing to post your original birth certificate is an unwise political and leadership decision that is enabling the 'birther' controversy.”

Crisis is most intense...

Acute Phase
Republican Split Views Tea Party & Right-Wing Republican Attention
• Sarah Palin – December 2009

“Fair question to ask.” – Rush Humphries Radio Likened it to questions about her maternity to her son, Trig. • Donald Trump – March 2011 Would not let go of the issue, because he was not satisfied that Obama had proved his citizenship

Moderate Republics
• Michael Castle – July 2009

Booed at town hall – “"if you’re referring to the president there, he is a of the United States.” • RNC Chairman Michael Steele – “Believes that this is an unnecessary distraction and believes that the president is a U.S. citizen.”
Crisis is most intense...

Primary Response
White House Secretary Robert Gibbs states his distaste for the citizenship buzz
• Primary Spokesman for Obama citizenship debacle

Primary Response
Long form birth certificate released • April 27 2011 • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agXtTQyehRE Critique
• Length of time to release the long form • Addressed long-term issues • Addressed a wider audience

American Sentiment
• April 20-23, 2011 -

24% of Americans – Obama "definitely" born in another country
(2011 USA Today/Gallup poll)

• May 5, 2011 – 70% of Americans – Obama was born in Hawaii – up from 48% a year

ago (Washington Post Poll)

Reach a wider audience...

Chronic Phase
Mixed Reactions Phil Berg
• “Good first step” • He is naturalized citizen, and a naturalized citizen cannot be president."

• “I am really honored and I am really proud, that I was able to do something that nobody else could do.” • But, is also getting ready to file a new suit that asserts Obama is an illegal alien.

• The President’s place of birth isn’t the issue – the issue is where the President’s father was born.

Other Birthers
• “Certificate of live birth” and not “birth certificate”
Many assume the crisis is over...

Chronic Phase
Obama Reply
• April 20, 2011 • "I know there is going to be a segment of people for which no

matter what we put out this issue will not be put to rest....We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do.”

White House Correspondents Dinner
• April 30, 2011
• Obama, who said he would "go a step further" in proving he

was born a U.S. citizen, revealed his "official birth video.”

2011 Re-election Campaign
• October 25, 2011 • Rick Perry Attention – Stated the birther issue is “fun” and a

“good issue to keep alive.”

Many assume the crisis is over...

Centers of Gravity
Muslim & Concealing Religion

Dual Citizenship

White House’s Lack of Communication

Born in Kenya

• Shifting Center of Gravity • Over time became the White House’s Lack of Communication with the media/public

Adopted in Indonesia

Fake Birth Certificate

Receives more attention than the event itself...

Analysis & Evaluation
Overall Grade – B Initial Response - Effective
• Used online media
• Addressed multiple issues

Primary Response - Ineffective
• Poorly Timed

• Lost track of center of gravity

Was there a choice?
• Would it all be settled if Obama released his "long form" birth certificate? • Would it be disadvantageous?

1. Speculation about why it took so long 2. Embolden adversaries’ demands 3. Open the door for more demands

Key Takeaways
Center of Gravity Monitor Key Stakeholders Transparency/ Quick Actions
Credible Source of Information
• Time lapse added additional speculation

• Democrat Base, Independents & Republican Base • Be susceptible to questions • Keep communication open with fightthesmears.com • Make the White House the primary source of valid information

Recovery Response
Keep Key Issue in Mind • To maintain transparency in order to decrease media attention and rumors about Obama’s place of birth. Utilize Effective Media – Online engagement

Keep Key Audiences in Mind -

Democrat Base

• 19% — believed that Obama born outside the U.S. or were unsure where he was born
• 48% — of the independents believed that Obama born outside the U.S. or were unsure where he was born

American Public Republican Base

57% — said Obama was born in the U.S.

45% — of Republicans surveyed said Obama born outside the U.S.


Warning “Trouble is brewing.” June 2004 – Obama delivers DNC Speech Acute “Crisis is most intense.” June 2008 – Fightthesmears.com established & Releases Short Form Birth Certificate August 2008 – Phillip Berg sues DNC August 2008 – Hawaii reprints birth Announcement Chronic “Many assume the crisis is over.” April 2011 – Long Form Birth Certificate is released Resolution “Support your organization's recovery.” Current – Non-believers still not convinced – seek more documentation

June 2004 – Andy Martin “Obama is a Muslim.” 2004/2006 – Muslim Whisper Campaign

Post April 2011 – Critics reject the release Post April 2011 – News outlets not covering necessary issues, focus on birth certificate

February 2007 – Obama Announces running for US President April 2008 – Clinton Supporter Suggests Obama was born in Kenya

November 2008 – Obama Elected President 2008 – Tea Party & Right Wing Republicans Attention

Ethical Concerns
Not presented b/c of time constraints, but wanted to address the ethical issues • Ethnical Concerns of spreading rumors
• The rumors spread against President Obama were many times unsubstantiated

and based on false facts. • The birth certificate issue is often brought up by celebrities or political candidates looking to seek media attention.

• Ethical Response • The White House had to respond in an ethical manner and not participate in rumor spreading. • TheFactCheck.org was an effective way to respond to the rumors without participating in unethical actions.

• Roember, Bob. ―When the Balloon Goes Up: A Communicator‘s Guide to Crisis

• • • • • •

Response. Obama Presidential Eligibility – An Introductory Primer. http://people.mags.net/tonchen/birthers.htm A Hint of New Life to a McCain Birth Issue. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/11/us/politics/11mccain.html Washington Post Poll. www.washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/politics/polls/postpoll_05052011.html Half of ‗Birthers‘ Call it ‗Suspicion‘; A Third Approve of Obama Anyway. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/13/us/politics/13martin.html?pagewanted=all Obama Hits Back at Internet Slanders http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5juMJpMhCS5TDzEF2Ds-frHSuHQLQ After-Birthers: How Conspiracy Theorists Reacted to Obama‘s Long-Form Birth Certificate http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/04/afterbirthers_how_conspiracy_theorists_reacted_to_obamas_birth_certificate.php One in four Americans think Obama was not born in the U.S. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20056061-503544.html

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