CNN's Gary Tuchman says that the reason he likes his job is that his only mission is to get the facts. If that's the case, the latest assignment for the "Anderson Cooper 360" correspondent must have been a breeze: to debunk the myth, once and for all, that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
CNN sent Tuchman to Hawaii, and the first part of his investigation aired on Monday's "AC 360." (The second will air on Tuesday night.) While there, he spoke to several former and current government officials, including the state's current governor, Neil Abercrombie. One of Hawaii's former top health officials--a Republican named Chiyome Fukino--told Tuchman that she has personally seen Obama's original birth certificate. What's more, Tuchman found that the certificate of live birth that Obama released many years ago is beyond sufficient to determine his Hawaiian heritage: it's actually the only acceptable form of birth certificate in the state anymore.
"We have not seen one iota of credible evidence that he was born outside of the United States," Tuchman told The Huffington Post in an interview Tuesday. He said that the "speculation" and "innuendo" of birthers such as Donald Trump was completely baseless. He also said that his investigation turned up things that "even Barack Obama" might not have known. For instance, a woman who gave birth thirteen hours after Obama's mother told CNN that she thinks she saw Obama in the hospital's nursery.
The case, it would seem, is closed. But then, it's been closed pretty much ever since the issue was raised years ago. Why reopen this door? Tuchman said that, in the current political climate, and with polls showing that a substantial number of people still say they doubt that Obama was born in the U.S., the time seemed right to produce "the final story for open minded people."
Of course, the point of many conspiracy theories is that evidence doesn't do much to convince people who believe them. Indeed, on the same night that Tuchman's investigation ran, Donald Trump was stating, yet again, that he has serious concerns about Obama's citizenship. (Trump introduced a new theory to Anderson Cooper: that the birth certificate is missing.)
Tuchman said that he "can't quite figure out" why Trump has become such a zealous birther. "If it's not [political] opportunism I don't know what it is," he said, adding that someone who trafficked so "casually" in such ideas "sounds like someone who isn't serious about leading this nation."
He said that the government officials in Hawaii--in particular Fukino--shared his frustration about the persistence and durability of the birther myth. "They're serious people, and the evidence shows that this is an unserious argument," he said.
If Tuchman's investigation fully eschews the notion of "balance" to the story of Obama's citizenship, there is still a question of whether it is right to give the story any attention at all. Mightn't it be better not to give the birthers, as wrong as they are, any oxygen?
Tuchman said that people who are both pro and anti-birther have asked him, "why are you doing this story?" But he stressed that his job was only to find out what was factually accurate. "If it's relevant to our viewers, our job is to report it," he said. "This is a big issue, whether you like it or not."
The second part of Tuchman's investigation airs on Tuesday's "Anderson Cooper 360" at 10 PM ET. Watch the first part below.