In 2008, they went after Barack Obama. In 2016, they’re going after Ted Cruz.
The originators of the so-called birther movement are leading a charge this campaign cycle with the same accusations they had two campaign cycles ago.
Eight years ago, the loosely organized group came together other-izing the man who would become the first black president. Now, they’re attempting to do so with the potential first Latino one. And it’s not just isolated fringe bloggers who have taken up the mantle. WorldNetDaily, a site that has touted both Donald Trump and Cruz and been essential reading for their fans, is supporting the cause as well.
The senator from Texas was born in Calgary, Canada, to an American mother and a Cuban father. Cruz released his birth certificate in 2013 and renounced his Canadian citizenship a year later in advance of his presidential campaign, in an attempt to put the issue to bed before it reached national headlines in this campaign cycle.
And that might have resolved it, if Donald Trump had not questioned his legitimacy as a candidate.
“How do you run against the Democrat, whoever it may be, and you have this hanging over your head if they bring a lawsuit?” Trump said in an interview on CNN this week. And just like that, with one question, the real estate mogul effectively brought this issue from the far reaches of conspiracy Internet sites to the forefront of American dialogue.
Trump later suggested that Cruz ask a judge for a “declaratory judgment” to definitively prove the status of his citizenship.
This, of course, would likely create a spectacle that could prove politically advantageous to Trump, who is currently losing to Cruz in Iowa, the first primary state.
“I’m doing this for the good of Ted… I like him. He likes me,” Trump asserted.
While this reads as a witch hunt to most eyes—akin to Trump’s previous efforts to get Obama’s birth certificate released—many of the original founders of the 2008 movement seem to agree with the leading Republican candidate. Unlike Obama, they like Cruz and they want him to clear the air on this birth issue before it’s too late.
“I think it does disqualify him,” said Teo Bear (an online pseudonym), who warned about the issue of Ted Cruz’s birth on his site Birthers.org in 2014. “Let me ask you a question, if you were dating a girl and you come to realize that she wanted to get serious and wanted to have children and you didn’t want puppies, don’t you think you should tell her ‘I don’t want puppies?’”
In the same manner, Bear thinks that Cruz should be forthright with the American people and go to the Supreme Court to get this question resolved once and for all. The origin of the problem for Bear and his birther associates when it comes to Obama, Cruz, and especially Marco Rubio, is the constitutional understanding of the phrase “natural born citizen.”
The birther movement would suggest that anyone born in a foreign country—in Cruz’s case, Canada—would need to become formally naturalized in a court of law before being considered a natural born citizen in the United States.
Most legal experts contend that Cruz meets the qualifications of this constitutional standard by having an American mother and thus obtaining her citizenship upon his birth. In 1790, after the Revolution, the United States passed the Naturalization Act, which said that children who were born to U.S. citizens outside of the United States also qualified as citizens.
But these standards are not clear enough proof for people like Joseph Farah, the editor-in-chief of conservative site WorldNetDaily.
“Is that what the founders meant? Was it enough to have one parent be an American citizen? Does it matter where you’re born? This is a serious issue,” Farah said in a phone interview with The Daily Beast. “It’s not some crazy conspiracy theory. It’s not some game. It’s the Constitution we’re talking about.”
Yet, the mustachioed purveyor of conspiracy theories about Obama’s birth in Kenya really likes Cruz politically.
“I personally think Ted Cruz is a terrific candidate, one of the smartest guys in any room he goes into,” Farah said, coming short of endorsing Cruz. “I think he’d be a fine president.”
After all, WND sells a book by Cruz’s father, Rafael, called A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America, which details how Christians should get more involved in politics. Not to mention WND’s close affiliation with a fellow Cruz-lover Frank Gaffney, who has said that Grover Norquist is a secret informant for the Muslim Brotherhood.
So it’s not as if Farah doesn’t want Cruz to succeed—in fact he’s raising these issues to ensure that he can.
Farah worries that if the debate about eligibility standards does not happen soon, Cruz’s birth will negatively impact Republican primary voters. And he suggested, it’s only coming up now because it is politically advantageous for Trump to create this dialogue.
“The day that Rubio emerges as a super threat, the questions will be raised about him,” Farah said, echoing a similar sentiment that many birthers share about the legitimacy of the Florida senator’s citizenship status. “It just depends on whose ox is being gored.”
As this debate about Cruz’s presidential eligibility has dragged on—with John McCain, whose birth was previously questioned, raising the spectre of doubt about Cruz and Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson filing a lawsuit—the rhetoric from the OG’s of the birther movement have been ratcheting up.
“He’s not eligible because he’s not born in the country,” said Mario Apuzzo, an insurance attorney from New Jersey who filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2009 against president-elect Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, and Congress alleging that Congress had not properly verified Obama’s eligibility to be president.
In 2010, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case after a federal court in New Jersey dismissed it and the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal.
“He was born to an alien father,” Apuzzo said of Cruz. “He’s got a worse situation than President Obama.”
Apuzzo added that Cruz, because of his birthplace, would have “divided allegiances,” compromising his ability to lead.
This is an argument employed by other original members of the movement who worry that a Cruz presidency would set a bad precedent for future American politicians.
Charles Kerchner, a self-described “retired professional electrical engineer” who was one of the plaintiffs in Apuzzo’s suit, thinks that it’s time for Cruz to drop out of the race entirely.
“What if the next time it’s North Korea?” Kerchner said about Cruz’s country of birth. “You’re either pregnant or you’re not. Why do we have to go to these more exotic candidates because the political parties want to do this?”
He’s been writing about Cruz and his birth on his personal WordPress blog since 2013.
“Natural born Citizens are created by natural law and the laws of nature and nature’s Creator, not man-made laws,” he penned nearly three years ago. Upset that his case wasn’t heard in court, Kerchner is happy that Trump brought this issue to mainstream light again.
“If I say to you a red Chevy and a Ford are both cars, does that make a Ford a red Chevy?” Kerchner asked. “You have to be totally free of foreign influence. What if we had a Cuban missile crisis and the president has a father living in Cuba?” Kerchner said referencing Cruz’s own father. “Would he be as quick to pull the trigger if we have to?
“It takes two tigers in natural law to make a tiger,” he added. “It takes two citizens to have a natural born citizen. Why do you have to go to all these sexy immigrant types,” Kerchner said exasperated with some of the GOP choices.
While mainstream media and Cruz himself might scoff at these suggestions from people like Apuzzo—who said he’s tired of being called “a kook”—when these same questions were raised about Obama, they gained some ground.
In 2011, a quarter of Americans polled thought that Obama was born in a different country. Even in September of this year, 20 percent of Americans thought that he was not from the United States initially.
Cruz himself has balked at the question of citizenship.
“Yes, I’m sure the media—with all due respect—love to engage in silly sideshows,” he said in an interview with CNN on Thursday. “We need to focus on what matters.”
Cruz’s national spokesperson, Rick Tyler, told The Daily Beast, “It’s all nonsense. Ted Cruz has never breathed a breath where he was not an American citizen.”
But for the so-called birthers, a term that is pejorative depending on which member is talking, this situation is of dire importance—especially for the people who want to see Cruz win.
“If I could say anything to anybody, it would be to the Supreme Court—GET OFF YOUR ASS and make a clarification on who is a natural born citizen so we don’t have to do this again! Is that clear enough?” Bear screamed from the side of a Florida road before hanging up the phone.
—with additional reporting by Betsy Woodruff