US & Canada

Q&A: Obama's birth certificate

Barack Obama
Image caption Mr Obama felt the time had come to draw a line under the issue

President Barack Obama has released his original birth certificate in response to allegations that he was not born in the US and not eligible to be president.

Mr Obama had previously released an official "certification of live birth" showing he was born in Hawaii.

But the White House has now published copies of the president's original birth certificate along with a statement on its website.

The document shows that Mr Obama was born in Hawaii on 4 Aug 1961 at 7.24pm.

"We don't have time for this kind of silliness," the president said in a statement to reporters.

Why has he chosen to do this now?

The issue has been back on the news agenda in recent weeks, mainly due to potential presidential candidate Donald Trump expressing his doubts about the president's birthplace.

He said he sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to try to find out more.

In response, CNN this week announced the results of its own investigation, in which it spoke to the former director of the health department on the island who said she had seen Mr Obama's original birth certificate herself.

The persistence with which the story kept resurfacing has prompted the White House to act.

In his statement, the president said it was particularly frustrating that the news about the Republican plan to cut the deficit was overshadowed by further allegations about his own birthplace.

But Mr Obama's opponents may question why it has taken the White House two years to yield to demands to see his original birth certificate.

What allegations were being made about Mr Obama?

For years, the "birthers" - as those who doubt Mr Obama's eligibility for the presidency are known - have been expressing their doubts about his place of birth.

The principal allegation was that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and that he is therefore ineligible to be president, according to the US constitution, which states that "no person except a natural born citizen... shall be eligible to the office of President".

It was further alleged that any documents purporting to prove Mr Obama's eligibility were either insufficient or fraudulent.

Some of those challenging Mr Obama's eligibility allege that he was actually born in Kenya, or that he adopted Indonesian citizenship as an infant.

What do Americans believe?

Despite all the evidence, the number of Americans who believe that he is not eligible to be president, and that his birth certificate is a forgery, did appear to be significant, before today's announcement.

Polling on this issue has tended to vary, but a recent CNN poll suggested that 43% of Republicans said they weren't sure Mr Obama was born in the US.

Alan Keyes, a former Republican presidential candidate, filed a lawsuit questioning Mr Obama's eligibility.

And former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin had questioned why the president had failed to produce his original birth certificate. On Twitter on Wednesday, she welcomed the news that the certificate had been released.

Other Republicans have been forthright in their condemnation of the allegations. The right-wing Fox News broadcaster Bill O'Reilly challenged Mr Trump on his show, and rejected his claims.

How have birthers reacted?

Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND, a news agency that has campaigned to have Mr Obama's birth certificate released, said he was elated at the news.

But in a statement on the WND website, he added the document would have to be examined closely, and questions still remained.

"It is important to remember there are still dozens of other questions concerning this question of eligibility that need to be resolved to assure what has become a very sceptical public concerning Barack Obama's parentage, his adoption, his citizenship status throughout his life and why he continues to cultivate a culture of secrecy around his life."

Another leading birther, Orly Taitz, reacted by repeating outlandish claims that Mr Obama is not a "natural born citizen" because his father is Kenyan. Several other US presidents have had parents who were not US-born.

It is unlikely that the birth certificate with completely dispel all the doubts, but the focus may also turn to Mr Obama's college education.

Mr Trump has questioned how a "terrible student" got into Columbia University or Harvard Law School, and has demanded to see his grades.

So how did the birther story start?

During the 2008 US presidential election, rumours began to circulate on the internet that Barack Obama had not been born in the United States, and was therefore not eligible for the presidency.

Mr Obama's campaign provided evidence to rebut the claims, including the candidate's "live" birth certificate, but the chatter did not die down, and some people even launched lawsuits to question Mr Obama's eligibility.

What documents were previously presented proving Mr Obama's eligibility?

In June 2008, the Obama campaign - in an attempt to disprove another set of internet rumours that Mr Obama's middle name was Muhammad - made public his birth certificate.

The document - a Certification of Live Birth - indicated that Mr Obama had been born at 7.24pm on 4 August 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Researchers also dug up birth notices for Mr Obama printed in the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1961.

The newspapers received information about births from Hawaii's Department of Health.

But Mr Obama had never released his original "long-form" birth certificate until now.

Why did these documents not stop the rumours?

When Mr Obama's Certification of Live Birth was published, as a scanned document on the Obama campaign's website, some people began to question its authenticity.

It was alleged in blog posts, chain emails and internet forums that the document did not have an official stamp or seal and that it lacked an official signature. Some even suggested that the document had been faked using picture-altering software.

Was there any substance to these allegations?

No. Representatives from the Annenberg Public Policy Center's Political Fact Check project examined the hard copy of the document and verified that it did in fact bear an official seal, and had been signed by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T Onaka (using a signature stamp). Both the seal and the signature were on the (unscanned) reverse of the document.

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