HONOLULU — Frustrated by what he sees as a never-ending campaign to undermine President Barack Obama, Hawaii's new governor says he plans to use his new post to counter conspiracy theorists who continue to allege that the president was not born in the United States.
Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who took office Dec. 6, has known Obama since the president's days growing up in Hawaii. He's also one of the few people who knew both Obama's father, also named Barack, and mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.
That longstanding relationship is a major reason Abercrombie, 72, takes umbrage with the persistent effort by Obama's most ardent foes to assert that he was born in Kenya, which would constitutionally bar him from holding the office of president.
"Now that I'm governor, I'm going to do something about that," Abercrombie vowed during an interview in his fifth-floor office in the state capitol.
"What bothers me is that some people who should know better are trying to use this for political reasons," said Abercrombie, who spent 19 years representing Hawaii's 1st District as one of the more liberal members of Congress. He added, "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.' "
One of Abercrombie's aides said the governor is voicing the frustration of many Hawaiians who continue to be troubled by the rumors, which they see as emblematic of the view that Hawaiians are not Americans in the same way as those who live in the continental United States.
Abercrombie, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., came to Hawaii in 1959 to study sociology at the University of Hawaii. As a teaching assistant, he met and befriended Obama's father, a native of Kenya.
Obama's mother was born in Kansas and met and married his father when the two were college students in Hawaii. Obama was born at Kapi'olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961.
But in 2008, as Obama ran for president, allegations appeared online claiming, without proof, that he was born in Kenya.
That June, the Obama campaign released a Certificate of Live Birth — an official document from the state of Hawaii Health Department certifying the facts of a person's birth — as proof of his birthplace. Investigations by two prominent fact-checking organizations — Politifact, the fact-checking website owned by the St. Petersburg Times, and Factcheck.org — concluded that the certificate was authentic. Factcheck also turned up a 1961 birth announcement in a local newspaper, the Honolulu Advertiser, marking the birth of a son to "Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama of Kalanianaole Hwy."
But the Hawaii birth document, dated 2007 and generated at the request of the Obama campaign, was insufficient for some of Obama's detractors. They demand the release of his original birth certificate, which in Hawaii is not a public record. Several lawsuits have been filed seeking to force Obama to disclose more information, but they have been dismissed by courts.
Bills have been introduced in state legislatures that would require candidates for the presidency to document that they were born in the country. One passed the Arizona House in April. Similar legislation was introduced in Congress in 2009 and failed to gain traction.
The "birther" movement made news this month when Army Lt. Col. Terry Lakin was dismissed from the military and sentenced to six months in prison after he refused to deploy to Afghanistan because he claimed Obama may be ineligible to serve as president.
"When you look at the certification of live birth … you don't find the name of the doctor, hospital or signature," said prominent "birther" Orly Taitz, a California lawyer and dentist. "We've asked to see the original one that is still sealed."