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When It Comes to 'Birtherism,' Did 'Fight the Smears' Backfire?

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, April 22 2011

Back during the 2008 race, the Obama campaign launched a website called Fight the Smears. At the time, it seemed the sign of a web-savvy campaign finding a clever way to inject the online public debate their take on the many negative stories being lobbed in their direction.

But here's a provocative twist. In their brief history on so-called 'birtherism' today, Politico's Ben Smith and Byron Tau report that that tactic might have, in at least one case, made things worse:

Ironically, the birther movement didn’t really take off in earnest until the Obama team tried to debunk it.

In June 2008, National Review conservative blogger Jim Geraghty, after debunking a number of conspiracy theories about Obama floated by fellow conservatives, asked the Obama campaign to “return the favor” and just release his birth certificate to the public to put to rest questions about both Obama’s birth and whether, as enemies claimed, his middle name was “Mohammed.”

A few days later, the Obama campaign did exactly that.

They posted Obama’s certificate of live birth on their “Fight the Smears” website and gave a copy to the liberal website Daily Kos. It was greeted with immediate cries that it was a fake.

It's all still up. "Next time someone talks about Barack’s birth certificate," reads the site, "make sure they see this page."