Note: We recognize the argument that, by explaining how the media dragged out the birther story, the New York Times is itself dragging out the birther story. We will refrain from making said argument, pretty much because we’d be guilty of the same thing.
Moving on. Brian Stelter at the Times writes that though the facts about President Barack Obama‘s birth never wavered, the more the “fraudulent theories were debated and dispelled in major news media outlets, the more people seemed to believe them.”
What’s surprising about this is that much of the coverage in the media was about how absurd, if not racist, the birther theories were. But the fact that news media outlets were going to such great lengths to debate the theories only ended up giving them more traction.
In waves of media coverage — the vast majority of it critical of the so-called “birther” position — reporters tried to debunk those theories. But opinion polls found that doubts among Americans about his citizenship grew over time, as if the very fact of the debate caused the issue to fester in more minds.
In fact, the network that gave the most coverage to the birther issue was liberally-inclined MSNBC. “What were they saying? That the theory was ludicrous.”