Advancing the conspiracy theory that President Obama lacks a valid birth certificate and is therefore ineligible to be president, radio host G. Gordon Liddy falsely claimed during the July 23 edition of MSNBC's Hardball that there is "a deposition, which is a sworn statement, from the stepgrandmother, who says, 'I was present and saw [Obama] born in Mombasa, Kenya.' " In fact, while the conservative news website WorldNetDaily claims to be "in possession" of affidavits from Anabaptist minister Ron McRae and Rev. Kweli Shuhubia, two individuals who purportedly took part in a telephone interview with the president's stepgrandmother, McRae's and Shuhubia's accounts have been discredited, and even WorldNetDaily does not claim to have a "sworn statement" from the stepgrandmother herself.
According to WorldNetDaily, McRae and Shuhubia each asserted in their affidavits that President Obama's stepgrandmother, Sarah Hussein Obama, told them that President Obama was born in Mombasa. However, in a December 4, 2008, Slate.com article, David Weigel noted that McRae provided Pennsylvania attorney Philip J. Berg with only a "partial transcript of the call" and that the "rest of the call" showed that McRae was repeatedly told during the interview that "the president-elect was born in Hawaii":
On Oct. 16, an Anabaptist minister named Ron McRae called Sarah Hussein Obama, the president-elect's 86-year-old paternal step-grandmother, at her home in Kenya. Two translators were on the line when McRae asked if the elder Obama was "present" when the president-elect was born. One of the translators says "yes." McRae contacted Berg and gave him a partial transcript of the call with a signed affidavit. He opted not to include the rest of the call, in which he asks the question more directly -- "Was he born in Mombassa?" -- and the translators, finally understanding him, tell him repeatedly that the president-elect was born in Hawaii.
In a December 5, 2008, War Room post, Salon.com's Alex Koppelman similarly noted that the full audio of the interview indicates that McRae was told "over and over again, that Obama was born in the U.S.":
During the interview, which was conducted through a translator by a street preacher named Ron McRae, Sarah Obama does in fact say she was present. But it's clear that there was a mistranslation, because as soon as McRae very excitedly starts to try to get additional details, the people on the other end of the line realize what's happened and say, over and over again, that Obama was born in the U.S.
For some reason, the transcripts of the interview that have been posted on various right-wing Web sites all seem to cut off right after Sarah Obama says she was there when her grandson was born. So does this YouTube video with the audio of the interview. But as The Economist points out, McRae also released the full audio, in which the key parts of the conversation can be heard. Here's part of it. (The other person speaking is translator Vitalis Akech Ogombe.)
MCRAE: When I come in December. I would like to come by the place, the hospital, where he was born. Could you tell me where he was born? Was he born in Mombasa?
OGOMBE: No, Obama was not born in Mombasa. He was born in America.
MCRAE: Whereabouts was he born? I thought he was born in Kenya.
OGOMBE: No, he was born in America, not in Mombasa.
MCRAE: Do you know where he was born? I thought he was born in Kenya. I was going to go by and see where he was born.
OGOMBE: Hawaii. Hawaii. Sir, she says he was born in Hawaii. In the state of Hawaii, where his father was also learning, there. The state of Hawaii.
Additionally, the Chicago Tribune reported on December 3, 2008: "The translator said he was one of two interpreters conducting the interview in a crowded hut during a celebration, over a speaker phone that dropped the call three times."
As Media Matters has detailed, Liddy served four and a half years in prison in connection with his conviction for his role in the Watergate break-in and the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Liddy has acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in "if necessary"; plotting to kill journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a "gangland figure" to kill Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap "leftist guerillas" at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis. (The homicide, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the break-ins were.) During the 1990s, Liddy reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents and also reportedly said he had named his shooting targets after Bill and Hillary Clinton.
From the July 23 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): This is all available, Gordon. Here it is. [Certification of Live birth is shown on screen.] So we have the number. What do you think now?
LIDDY: Well, I would like to check it out. The preponderance of the evidence is as follows. You've got a deposition, which is a sworn statement, from the stepgrandmother, who says, "I was present and saw him born in Mombasa, Kenya." You've got the certificate of live birth that they have here. It's not a birth certificate. It says right on it, "certificate of live birth."
MATTHEWS: But you claim he was born in the Kenyan slums. You say that as a fact.
LIDDY: No, in a hospital in Mombasa. I didn't say the Kenyan slums.
E. STEVEN COLLINS (WRNB radio talk show host): What's the difference? Chris, Chris --
MATTHEWS: I mean, where -- which hospital in Mombasa? I mean, I've been over there so many times. Where is this -- all this happened? You have a whole history of this fellow in Kenya. Do we have any evidence it ever happened?
LIDDY: What ever happened?
MATTHEWS: That he was born in Kenya?
LIDDY: Yeah, I've got the deposition of the stepgrandmother, who said that she witnessed it.
MATTHEWS: Your witness.