While racism was a major element of the Birther movement in 2008, a second understated motivation behind this lunacy was Islamophobia, the violent fear of Muslims. This erupted immediately after the September 11 Attacks, and has continued to grow as Islamic terrorism hits major parts of the world. With President Obama being the first non-white President of the United States, reactionary white racists grew paranoid of him, leading to a popular incident during John McCain’s campaign in which the then-Republican nominee had to defend Obama as being an American, not an Arab.
Despite all the evidence pointing towards Obama being a Christian, many conspiracy nuts among the Right continue to bring this Muslim accusation up. This would be typical zealot politics if it was among a typical backwards congressman from the Bible Belt, but the most recent use of it has stemmed not only from New York, but from the campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Carl Paladino, the co-chairman of Trump’s ill-conceived efforts to win over New Yorkers, spoke to the New York Observer about the campaign. With regards to President Obama, Paladino had this to say about the President’s religion:
“In the mind of the average American, there is no doubt he is a Muslim. He is not a Christian.”
Correction, in the mind of the average, misinformed conservative, there is no doubt Obama is a Muslim. Absolutely ridiculous that this is still an issue in this day and age of information access.