Birthers seize on death of Hawaii official as fuel for birtherism

Loretta Fuddy and Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie pose for a photo. Fuddy died in a plane crash in the state on Wednesday.

Loretta Fuddy died in a plane crash in Hawaii on Wednesday. It was Fuddy who released President Barack Obama's long-form birth certificate in 2011.

People who've insisted for five years that the White House is covering up the truth of President Obama's birthplace have a theory about news of the death of a Hawaii official in a plane crash: It is part of the conspiracy. It is almost as though birthers will accept any evidence that can be twisted in their favor and ignore the preponderence of evidence rejecting it.

Related: State health director killed in Hawaii plane crash

On Thursday morning, USA Today reports that Loretta Fuddy was the sole fatality in the crash of a Makani Kai Air plane off the coast of one of the Hawaiian islands. Fuddy was the acting health director in the state of Hawaii in 2011, when she oversaw the release of the detailed version of Obama's birth certificate to the White House. Obama hoped that the document's release would curtail the long-standing rumor that he wasn't born in the United States. But, since you can't trump irrationality with reason, it didn't.

The release of the birth certificate only served to further fuel the conspiracy. Faulty interpretations of the digital file released by the administration led to an idea that the document was forged. (The weird crusade from notorious, attention-hungry Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio didn't help.) Snopes.com thoroughly debunked the idea, but the idea was set: it was forged. And Fuddy often bore the blame. See, for example, this BirtherReport.com article, which painstakingly cites various unnamed experts and unseen evidence to demonstrate that Fuddy had a hand in deceiving the American public.

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Within minutes of the USA Today story, World Net Daily — epicenter of anti-Obama conspiracy theories —ran the headline above on its main page. The linked article mostly rehashes the site's existing "evidence." The unsubtle conspiracy suggestion was made explicit by the commenters. "PEOPLE THAT HAVE THE GOODS ON THE EVIL CABAL, GET KILLED ....PERIOD ....," writes one. Another: "Isn't it strange that anyone with any connection to Obama or his background has a tendency to have a 'shortened' life span." (The other examples of this are not immediately obvious to a layperson.)

At the Free Republic, proud focal point of anti-Obama outrage, commenters were quick to compare the death of Fuddy to the death of Ron Brown, Clinton's Commerce Secretary who was killed in a plane crash in Europe in 1996 — an event theorists tied very loosely to the Whitewater scandal. "Nine people aboard a plane that crashes and only one fatality?," one wrote. "Check her head for a small hole, about .45 inches in diameter, a la Ron Brown." (In case it doesn't go without saying, there is no credible evidence that Brown was shot to death.) A less generous person simply wrote, "Karma is a Bi^ch."

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The theory around Fuddy, then, goes like this. She was about to blow the whistle on having helped forge Obama's detailed birth certificate, so Obama had her killed. Every step of that is stupid. There's no evidence that she was planning on talking to anyone about anything. Any conspiracy involving the birth certificate would clearly involve far more people than just Fuddy, none of whom, it seems, have been touched. And, of course, killing someone by crashing a plane without hurting anyone else on board is a pretty remarkable feat — one that would be much harder than, say, crashing a car or shooting someone in a "mugging." None of it makes any sense, but then neither does the existence at this late date of people insisting that Obama was born outside of the United States.

The moral of the story here is this: you can only wait until conspiracy theories slowly evaporate, you can't boil them off. Someone, somewhere (probably named Jerome Corsi) is already working on a book proposal related to Fuddy's death. The beauty of the First Amendment is that they can do so, and that we can sit here and watch and wonder. The tragedy is that a woman's death becomes a catalyst for insanity.

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