The belief that Barack Obama is not American—and therefore is ineligible to be president—is thriving on the conservative fringes, Politico reports. Officials have denied the claim, citing Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate, but 300,000 people have signed a petition demanding more evidence. So-called “Birthers” are also showing up at political functions, often embarrassing the president’s mainstream critics.
“It makes us look sick, troubled, and not suitable for civilized company," said one conservative talk show host. Birthers exist in two camps: One believes that native-born children of immigrants, like Obama, are not citizens—a contradiction of US law—and the other that Obama was born overseas. Some Democrats say that such notions could prove politically useful: "At some level, they're not that bad to have around," said a former Bill Clinton aide.