POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 25, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 6:48 a.m. HST, Dec 25, 2010
People who do not believe President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu in 1961 have stepped up their requests for proof of his birth this month, in the hopes that the new gubernatorial administration will offer more information.
The state Department of Health says it has received 27 requests for information about Obama's birth certificate this month, compared with 16 in November. There were 16 requests alone in the first half of this week, although most came from a single person.
Since 2008, "birthers," who believe Obama was born in Kenya and thus ineligible to be president, have been requesting information from the state about his birth. The requests continued despite Obama's camp releasing a copy of his certificate of live birth and reports of Obama's birth announcements published in 1961 in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Honolulu Advertiser.
Three weeks into his term, newly elected Gov. Neil Abercrombie told The New York Times that with regard to the birthers, he is "going to take care of that."
He said he is talking with the state attorney general's office and the director of the Health Department to see how he can release more information about the president's birth. The confidentiality of birth records is protected by state law.
"It's an insult to his mother and to his father, and I knew his mother and father; they were my friends, and I have an emotional interest in that," Abercrombie told the Times. "It's an emotional insult. It is disrespectful to the president; it is disrespectful to the office."
Abercombie was quoted by the Chicago Tribune as saying, "What bothers me is that some people who should know better are trying to use this for political reasons," he said. "Maybe I'm the only one in the country that could look you right in the eye right now and tell you, 'I was here when that baby was born.'"
Dr. Neal Palafox, Abercrombie's pick for state health director, declined to be interviewed until after his confirmation by the state Senate.
Despite the spike in requests, questions about Obama's birth certificate have largely been subsiding.
In May, then-Gov. Linda Lingle signed a law to allow the state to ignore repetitive requests from the same person. Earlier this year the state was receiving about 50 requests a month, but that started to decline before Lingle signed the law, state officials said.
The Health Department has used the law about six times, a department official said.
Some birthers, however, have skirted the law by changing their names in their requests or going online and asking blog readers to send in requests.
Fielding questions about Obama's birth still takes a toll on the Health Department's communication and vital-records offices, which are required by law to respond within 10 days.
At least two staffers spend an hour a day handling requests for Obama birth records, a department official said. They also have to interpret unclear or perplexing requests, sometimes seeking opinions from attorneys at the attorney general's office and the state Office of Information Practices.
For example, some requests ask the state to provide a copy of the seal used on Obama's certificate of live birth, said Cathy Takase, an Office of Information Practices attorney. The Health Department has responded by sending a pencil shading of the embossment, rather than the seal, which officials say could be misused for fraudulent purposes.
Takase said many questions about the seal come from one blogger with several aliases. This month the blogger asked the office to hold off on some of her requests because she was going to send a new request to the new Health Department director, Takase said.
"If you look at all the cases that we had, they were really only a handful of people, but they just made a lot of requests and very lengthy and ongoing kinds of requests," Takase said.