Sheriff Joe Arpaio says a new video analysis shows that parts of Obama's birth certificate were copied from another certificate. Arpaio says he will turn this new evidence over to the feds. David Wallace/azcentral.com
President Barack Obama produced the birth certificate document in 2011 to quell the "birther" controversy.
It was a presentation hyped by a tantalizingly brief media notification more than 24 hours earlier: On Thursday afternoon, it said, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio would present the newest revelations in an investigation into President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
At 4 p.m. sharp, Arpaio and a member of his Sheriff's Office's Cold Case Posse had a message for the 40-odd journalists in attendance: You were wrong.
Arpaio and his aides announced that a five-year probe had proved that Obama’s birth certificate from Hawaii in 1961 was, in fact, a forgery.
The sheriff’s pursuit of the birth certificate issue has outlasted many of its other disciples. Even President-elect Donald Trump, who helped fuel the “birther” movement several years ago, officially abandoned his position before his Nov. 8 election.
Arpaio, though, stuck with the review – despite widespread ridicule of the idea, despite the point that Obama’s mother’s U.S. citizenship would have made him a citizen regardless of where he was born, and despite the November defeat that ended Arpaio’s long run in office.
The news conference opened with a spokesman criticizing members of the media for critical coverage of the investigation. He then turned the stage over to the outgoing sheriff, who said he hoped to enlighten the public with information on this “fake, fake birth certificate.”
Arpaio insisted that the investigation was not linked to his legal conflicts with the Obama administration; it was about the allegation of a forged document.
“Think of it. We were trying to clear the president,” he said, adding, “It didn’t work out that way.”
Arpaio said he planned on turning over the information to the federal government this month.
The bulk of the hourlong news conference belonged to Mike Zullo, a posse member, who launched into a 50-minute presentation on the document’s “9 points of forgery.”
In exacting detail, Zullo explained how a careful analysis of the document’s typed letters and words, as well as the angles of the date stamps, proved the forgery.
According to the theory, the birth certificate presented to the public was created after copying and pasting information from the legitimate birth certificate of a woman born in Hawaii. An accompanying video simulated how the text would have been moved.
Zullo repeatedly stressed that the theory was supported by two experts on two separate continents. He said the investigators analyzed nine Hawaii birth certificates, and that one of them, belonging to a woman named Johanna Ah’Nee, was the source of the copied text.
Zullo’s presentation did not clarify how the investigation led to Ah’Nee or how they came into possession of her birth certificate.
Zullo and Arpaio declined to take questions after the press conference.
Reached by The Arizona Republic shortly afterward, Zullo said he obtained Ah’Nee’s birth certificate from a man named Jerome Corsi, who had authored a book on the matter.
Zullo said he was unclear what led Corsi to Ah’Nee in the first place.
“I have to be honest with you, that’s a really good question,” he said. “Because either that’s an unbelievable coincidence, or there’s something else going on.”
The event drew an audience of mostly older supporters, many of whom would cheer or nod their heads at various points.
About half were members of the Surprise Tea Party, said Kimberly Christensen, an attendee who is herself a member. The Surprise Tea Party is credited for bringing the issue to Arpaio’s attention years ago.
Christensen said she was satisfied with the amount of information that was presented Thursday. She said others have asked why she hadn’t dropped the issue long ago.
“It saddens my heart to talk to other American citizens saying, ‘Who cares?’ ” she said.
Arpaio, Trump once aligned on 'birther' issue
Arpaio's focus on the outgoing president has spanned several years. Obama was a favorite subject in Arpaio's fundraiser emails, speeches and campaign ads, and the president was blamed for the lawman's civil-rights-related legal battles.
Arpaio's persistence on the "birther" issue has outlived that of many other once-fervent supporters.
Trump had been a leader of the movement to prove Obama was not a natural-born citizen and was therefore not eligible for the nation's highest office. After years of persistent questioning — seen by many as racially motivated — the president produced his long-form birth certificate in April 2011.
In September, Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, announced he was dropping the issue.
Obama responded in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation: “I don’t know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over. I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change — none of those things weighed on my mind like the validity of my birth certificate.”
Probe launched by posse members
The Sheriff's Office's own "birther" investigation dates to August 2011, months after the White House website posted an image of Obama's birth certificate. The probe was led by the Sheriff's Office's Cold Case Posse, a non-profit arm of the office made up of often-retired volunteers.
Thursday's news conference recalled two other "birther" news conferences from 2012.
At those events, no one explicitly claimed the birth certificate was a fake. They were instead fueled by innuendo, the suspicions of volunteers, and a throng of impassioned tea-party supporters.
In March 2012, Zullo spent 50 minutes walking the media through what he said were irregularities in the White House's posted document.
Zullo had a repeat performance in July of that year, when he explained the investigators' findings after a 10-day trip to Hawaii. At that event, Zullo said investigators located a 95-year-old woman who might have written coding on the copy of Obama's birth certificate. That woman, Zullo said, later told a fake reporter that the numbers on Obama's birth certificate were inconsistent with the time and place of his birth.
Zulllo has surfaced in more recent Arpaio controversies as well. He was one of the key figures in what's known as the "Seattle Operation" — a pet project of Arpaio's that became a focal point during the sheriff's contempt-of-court hearings last year.
Zullo’s task was to keep an eye on a computer programmer named Dennis Montgomery, who had told Arpaio he could prove the federal government had hacked into the bank accounts of thousands of Maricopa County residents.
Montgomery’s work soon seemed to stray from that mission, however. In reports provided to the Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery presents a web of conspiracies involving a federal judge presiding over a racial-profiling case against Arpaio, along with Eric Holder and various other federal officials. Arpaio’s critics said the operation was a thinly veiled attempt to undermine a judge who had ruled unfavorably against the sheriff.