Attacks on Obama include misinformation, falsehoods - Olean Times Herald: - Attacks on Obama include misinformation, falsehoods: Editorial

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Attacks on Obama include misinformation, falsehoods

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Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 9:33 am

The most recent Readers’ Turn to Write (Oct. 8, 2012) defending the display of the signs “2012: America vs. Obama” contains overt falsehoods, which suggest that either the person who wrote the letter is deliberately deceiving the American public to whom he writes or, more likely, doesn’t know how — or doesn’t care — to check his facts.

I have not bothered to check all of his claims, only the ones that jumped out at me as patently false or misleading. The false one: that Obama signed 963 executive orders and that all of his predecessors combined signed only 121. The author adds that most of these orders were designed to control private citizens’ activities. The moment I read this, like so many other ridiculous claims I read about our president, I doubted it.

The author provides no sources for this claim, but the American Presidency Project ( and any number of other sites on the web reveal that the number of executive orders President Obama has signed is about the same as his recent predecessors during their first terms in office. Furthermore, if the author is relying on a message now circulating on the Internet, which makes the same false claim, that message also attributes to President Obama the signing of executive orders that were in fact signed by John F. Kennedy (See

Some of what the author writes is also misleading. For example, it’s true that when President Obama took office, the price of gasoline was below $2 per gallon.  But it’s also true that six months before, when President Bush was in office, it was also over $4 per gallon. Prices climbed pretty steadily from just under $2 a gallon to $4 a gallon during President Bush’s second term, and they have climbed pretty steadily from just under $2 a gallon to $4 a gallon during President Obama’s term.  Nothing exceptional about that.

Every time that I have bothered to check dubious claims of those opposed to President Obama, every time, I have found those claims to be either distortions or falsehoods.

Shortly after the debate at the Olean Public Library this past summer, I received a letter from another critic of the president, a “birther,” arguing that President Obama had to have fabricated his 1961 birth certificate when he listed his father’s place of birth as Kenya. He highlighted in his letter that Kenya didn’t come into existence by that name until 1963. This birther thought that the use of the name “Kenya” in 1961 was proof positive that President Obama is deceiving the American public.  

However, this birther also was kind enough to provide a source for his claim. I checked the source. His own source — and another source I checked (Encyclopedia Brittanica) — revealed that the name “Kenya” was applied in 1920 to what had formerly been called the British East Africa Protectorate. So, although Kenya remained a British colony until 1963, the name “Kenya” had been used long before that. Thus, there was nothing odd about President Obama’s 1961 birth certificate listing his father’s place of birth as Kenya. Hardly a knock-down proof of the president’s alleged lack of citizenship.

It’s hardly worth my time to refute the lies and distortions that Obama-haters keep spewing. Perhaps the strategy is, if you tell a big enough lie frequently enough, people will believe it. This seems to be the practice of President Obama’s opponents.

I am troubled by the willingness of the Times Herald to publish an op-ed piece with such an obvious falsehood as the claim about President Obama’s executive orders. Anyone the least bit familiar with presidential politics would know how ridiculous it is to assert that President Obama has signed eight times more executive orders than all of his predecessors. These are the sorts of lies that are being perpetrated upon a credulous American public, and our local newspaper is helping to spread the lies. A newspaper’s job should be to inform, not to misinform by publishing careless pieces of work, even if they are from readers.  

Both behaviors — those of authors who do not check their facts, and those of editors and publishers to print almost anything sent to them — are irresponsible.


(Dr. Gan lives in Olean.)

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