A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

More Citizenship Quibbles


Since our article about Barack Obama’s birth certificate came out in August, we’ve heard many frivolous claims, nutty theories and made-up facts advanced by a small clique of Obama deniers. It seems that every time a rumor is debunked, a new one crops up to take its place. Sometimes contradictory rumors even circulate simultaneously.

The most recent claim is that Obama’s short-form birth certificate is legitimate, but that it was made up after his birth in Kenya, due to a Hawaiian statute that allows children born outside the United States to obtain U.S. birth records if their parents had been legal residents of the state. The law stipulates:

Upon application of an adult or the legal parents of a minor child, the director of health shall issue a birth certificate for such adult or minor, provided that proof has been submitted to the director of health that the legal parents of such individual while living without the Territory or State of Hawaii had declared the Territory or State of Hawaii as their legal residence for at least one year immediately preceding the birth or adoption of such child.

Unfortunately for the Obama deniers, that rule didn’t exist until 21 years after Obama’s birth. Janice Okubo at the Hawaii Department of Health told us that the law was enacted in 1982. She added, "Our current staff is not aware of any cases in which this law has been used."

This means Obama is either a natural born citizen or a time traveler. We can’t wait to debunk those e-mail rumors!