Both CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell incorrectly asserted that President Obama is the only President in U.S. history who has had his citizenship doubted. In reality, both CBSNews.com and MSNBC.com posted a 2009 Associated Press article that detailed 21st President Chester A. Arthur having to deal with a similar controversy in the 1880 presidential campaign.
On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, outgoing anchor Katie Couric began the broadcast by declaring: “It was an extraordinary moment, President Obama went on national television today and did what no other president has ever even been asked to do, prove he’s a natural born U.S. citizen.” On Thursday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC, host Andrea Mitchell similarly proclaimed: “I mean, people who want to raise these conspiracy theorists – theories – and there is no other explanation other than, you know, sort of pure racism, because it’s never been raised about a white president.”
As the August 2009 Associated Press article explained: “Long before ‘birthers’ began questioning the citizenship of President Barack Obama, similar questions were raised about the early years of Arthur, an accidental president who ascended to the job after President James Garfield was assassinated.”
The article goes on to note specific calls for Arthur prove his American birth: “According to historical accounts, Republican bosses wanted him to provide proof of his birthplace, but he never did. Democrats, meanwhile, hired a lawyer named Arthur Hinman who sought to discredit Arthur, claiming he was born in Dunham, Quebec, about 47 miles north of Fairfield [Vermont].”
It is bad enough that Couric and Mitchell didn’t properly fact check their statements, but for the information to be available on their own respective websites make the errors even more stunning.