“Birther” claim about Obama and the Bush National Guard hoax: Fruit of the same poisonous tree?

So suggests John Avalon, in a Daily Beast column “The Secret History of the Birthers.” He traces birtherism to a Texas woman named Linda Starr, who was a Hillary Clinton delegate to the 2008 Texas state Democratic Convention. Avalon writes that Starr “was also cited as a key source for CBS’ discredited election year investigation into George W. Bush’s National Guard records that led to Dan Rather’s replacement after 24 years as the evening news anchor.” Avalon links to the Thornburgh/Boccardi report, which was conducted at the request of CBS News to examine CBS’s conduct in producing the infamous 60 Minutes story about Bush supposedly evading National Guard service and then having the records scrubbed. As the report details, Starr made the claim about Bush in an article on her website, three days before the 2000 presidential election. She also played a key role in serving as an intermediary for CBS to obtain the document which purported to be National Guard memo regarding the removal of NG records about Bush. The Thornburgh/Boccardi report does not claim that Ms. Starr knew that the document  was a clumsy fabrication.

At the very least, however, the fiasco of the Bush National Guard story shows that Ms. Starr did not provide her Internet readers, or CBS, with a story which could withstand factual scrutiny. Accordingly, if Avalon’s reporting is correct, he has provided yet another reason for people to disbelieve the (already-implausible) assertion that President Obama was not born in the United States. In contrast to the way the mainstream media initially handled the 2004 Bush National Guard story, the mainstream media did a better job in 2008 by not embracing a story about a presidential candidate which could not be supported by solid, verifiable facts.

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