Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent the last year hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

A New Birther Conspiracy Theory: Trump Tricked Us

| Fri May 27, 2011 8:29 AM EDT

On Wednesday night, the conservative news outlet WorldNetDaily published a story in which prominent birther Jerome Corsi claimed that Donald Trump had told him that President Barack Obama's recently released birth certificate was a fake. We asked Trump about that, and he told Mother Jones that he had done no such thing. After our story ran Thursday, WND editor Joseph Farah seemed shocked that Trump would try to put distance between himself and Corsi, author of the new book Where's the Birth Certificate?. In a WND story, Farah casts doubt on the "leftist Mother Jones" story, puzzling why Trump would say, as he told Mother Jones, that he had not even read Corsi's book. After all, Farah writes, Trump had asked for an advance copy. From WND:

Farah wonders aloud why Trump would ask for a copy of a book he had no intention of reading—even going to the extent of having his organization sign a non-disclosure agreement to get an early electronic copy. "If he wasn't going to read the book, why go to the trouble of requesting a PDF copy and having your representative sign an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] for it?" asked Farah. "Was his intent all along to violate the NDA and give it to someone else? Was his intent other than what he represented to us—to go to school on the eligibility issue? Trump needs to explain himself to someone other than Mother Jones. That doesn't sound like good faith to me."

Farah and Corsi can't understand why Trump might not want to continue the fight over Obama's citizenship, so they seem to have cooked up yet another conspiracy theory: someone else put Trump up to it. Trump couldn't have been persuaded by the long-form birth certificate that Obama released in April, or the mountains of other evidence that prove that the president was born in Hawaii. No, Farah writes, Trump must be in league with nefarious forces trying to undermine the birthers:

I have strongly begun to suspect that Trump had other motives than seeking the truth about Obama. I think he was pumping Corsi for information for some other purpose than being on the right side of history.

In a recent on-air conversation, Corsi and conspiracy theorist/talk show host Alex Jones suggested that Trump was now scheming with the White House—and perhaps had been plotting with the Obama crowd all along. They speculated that Trump had been bought off, pointing out that his retreat from birthersm and his attacks on GOP 2012 contenders suspiciously coincided with NBC's renewal of his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice. Somehow, the pair said, the government had given money to NBC that ended up with Trump. (They didn't provide details.). Corsi did note, though, that when he recently told Trump that it looked as if Trump's political loyalties had been purchased by the other side, the billionaire developer told him that for him, the NBC money was "chump change."

Trump must be ruing the day he got in bed with these people. He's gone from being their champion to being their target. Perhaps he'll be the subject of Corsi's next book.

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Trump: Birther Jerome Corsi Got it Wrong

| Thu May 26, 2011 12:11 PM EDT

This week, leading birther Jerome Corsi, the author of the new book, Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible To Be President, claimed Donald Trump told him that President Barack Obama's recently released long-form birth certificate is a forgery. In a story published by WorldNetDaily, Corsi said that Trump told him that he'd gotten his own computer expert to take a look at the document and that this expert concluded it was computer-generated. WND's article made it seem that Trump was getting back into the birther business.

But Trump says Corsi's not telling the truth.

In a statement to Mother Jones, Trump said:

I am proud of the fact that I was able to get President Obama to release his birth certificate. President Clinton couldn’t do it, Senator McCain couldn’t do it—no one else could do it! Frankly, many people were surprised that it took so long for this to happen. Is his birth certificate legitimate? I hope it is for the good of the country, but that’s for experts to determine—not me. I have not read the book written by Jerry Corsi nor did we discuss whether or not the birth certificate was computer generated or in any way fabricated. I merely asked him how his book was doing and wished him good luck.

During an on-air conversation with conspiracy theorist/talk show host Alex Jones—which was posted within the WND story on Trump's supposed comments—Corsi discussed at length his conversation with Trump. Not once did Corsi mention that Trump had said he doubted the authenticity of the document. In fact, Corsi noted that he had pressed Trump to publicly question the document and to demand a forensic investigation of the original record (as opposed to the electronic version released by the White House). "Trump didn't seem interested in any of that," Corsi told Jones. Corsi noted that Trump was also not enthusiastic about Corsi's latest birther-related pursuits: encouraging the filing of criminal charges claiming the birth certificate was forged, and chasing down supposed leads showing birth records related to Obama in Kenya were destroyed. Corsi repeatedly complained about Trump dropping the birther ball. Corsi also said that he had told Trump that it "sure looks like you dropped out" of the birther crusade because he received "a big payment" from NBC, referring to the renewal of Celebrity Apprentice. Jones and Corsi discussed the possibility that Trump is now in league with the Obama White House—plotting against birthers and Republicans.

That Corsi's claims about this particular phone call seem a little shaky is not surprising. He also wrote, among other things, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, a book about Kerry's war record in Vietnam that was roundly criticized for factual inaccuracies. At various times, Corsi has claimed that 9/11 was an inside job; that President George W. Bush intended to create a "North American Union" with a single currency for Canada, the United States, and Mexico; and that Democratic politicians are helping the Iranian mullahs, who are trying to obtain nuclear weapons. 

The WND story also seemed a bit at odds with Trump's public comments in response to Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate. In April, as he did today, Trump took credit for forcing Obama's hand after making the document a centerpiece of his short-lived presidential campaign. "I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully getting rid of this issue," he said.

Trump, who had briefly been the most prominent figure to take up the birther cause, stopped talking about the issue after Obama released his birth certificate (and, of course, after Obama made Trump and his birther fixation the butt of several jokes at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner). Corsi, though, has an explanation for that. According to WND, Trump told Corsi that just because he wasn't talking about the birth certificate after the April release didn't mean that he was satisfied with the document. The story says Trump told Corsi: "I always said I wanted to know if it was real."

WND has used the Trump-Corsi conversation to draw attention to its own extensive "case" about why the birth certificate must be a forgery, citing various experts on such issues as "kerning" (the squishing together of letters that can only be done with a word processor, not a typewriter). WND has posted an annotated version of the document, highlighting all the alleged fakery. Appending Trump's name on the story, of course, is simply a way of trying to keep the issue alive, and to sell some books. WND reportedly printed 200,000 copies of Where's the Birth Certificate?

It's clear that this conservative news outlet that has made a franchise out of questioning the president's citizenship is nowhere near ready to let it go. In fact, Corsi claims that he knew the White House would be releasing a forged birth certificate weeks before Obama made public the long-form document—and that he didn't publicize that information because he wanted the White House to fall into his trap. And Corsi has tried to keep Trump involved. Michael Cohen, Trump's spokesman, says that Corsi has repeatedly called Trump's office "to provide Mr. Trump with information on the birth certificate issue, even after Mr. Trump publicly stated that the president had publicly released his birth certificate and that it's time to move on to more important issues."

The WND article was headlined, "You're forged! Trump declares Obama's birth certificate fake." This fact-free ploy might cause Corsi to hear Trump's famous catchphrase—that is, if Corsi can ever get the billionaire developer on the phone again.

UPDATE: Here's WorldNetDaily's response to Mother Jones.

A Tea Party Legal Battle...Over a Google Group

| Thu May 26, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest tea party umbrella groups in the country, has proven once again that there's no issue too piddly for it to go to court over, at least when it comes to protecting its "brand." The group has waged legal battles against tea party Internet radio hosts, activists selling tea party T-shirts, and even a lone rural conservative who had the nerve to put the words "tea party" and "patriots" on his website. It's recently been battling in a Georgia court over a sparsely populated Gooogle group.

The case got it start in 2009 in a dispute with former board member and current Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer. TPP kicked Kremer off its board after she defied orders and went on a bus tour with Tea Party Express, TPP's rival. Then, TPP went to court and won a restraining order barring Kremer from using the Tea Party Patriots name, trademark, domain name, and especially its most valuable asset—its email list. She counter-sued for slander and also opposed TPP's trademark application, on the grounds that she put the term into circulation months before TPP was incorporated.

The case has dragged on now for nearly two years. In early May, TPP was back in court claiming Kremer had violated the original restraining order. A Georgia judge agreed and found her in contempt of court for failing to turn over control of a Tea Party Patriots Google group, as well as apparently for suggesting in public that she was one of TPP's original founders without noting that she's no longer affiliated with the group. A May 18 order (PDF) requires Kremer to relinquish control of the Google group to TPP posthaste and to correct the record about her affiliation. (See Kremer do just that with Stephen Colbert here.)

The fact that TPP is spending its members' donated money fighting over control of a listserv doesn't reflect well on the group. After all, the Google group activity has dwindled to a handful of kooky contributors who spend their time arguing about whether Obama's birth certificate is really real and which Marxist Communist policies Obama is pushing at the moment. It's hardly property worth fighting for. Ultimately, TPP's litigiousness seems more designed to bankrupt Kremer than to wrest control over its crumbling grassroots empire.

WorldNet Daily Can't Take A Joke

| Wed May 25, 2011 10:16 AM EDT

The folks at WorldNet Daily take their birther conspiracies very seriously. The right-wing publication has been the leading purveyor of rumors that President Obama is not a natural born American citizen, and thus, ineligible to serve as president. Its publisher, Joseph Farah, has paid for billboards blaring, "Where's the birth certificate?" and recently his outfit published Jerome Corsi's book of the same name. Corsi, though, had the misfortune of publishing the book at just about the exact moment Obama decided to release his "long form" birth certificate, settling once again and for all time the issue of where he was born.

Last week, Esquire magazine posted a little satire piece suggesting that in response to Obama's birth certificate production, Farah was recalling Where's the Birth Certificate?, pulping all 200,000 copies and offering refunds to anyone who'd bought the book. Esquire editor Mark Warren wrote:

A source at WND, who requested that his name be withheld, said that Farah was "rip-shit" when, on April 27, President Obama took the extraordinary step of personally releasing his "long-form" birth certificate, thus resolving the matter of Obama's legitimacy for "anybody with a brain."

"He called up Corsi and really tore him a new one," says the source. "I mean, we'll do anything to hurt Obama, and erase his memory, but we don't want to look like fucking idiots, you know? Look, at the end of the day, bullshit is bullshit."

Apparently lots of people believed that Farah could be so sensible and called up WND and asked for their money back. Farah was not amused. For the past few days, he has been blasting out emails suggesting that he might sue Esquire for libel. Of course, he hasn't just gone ahead and sued the publication. That would deprive him of a tremendous opportunity to fundraise off the whole episode. In an email Wednesday entitled, "To Sue or Not to Sue?" Farah writes:

I believe Warren, Esquire and the Hearst Corporation may have committed something other than satire. I think they committed libel.

And that's why I have decided to pursue every possible legal recourse for justice in this matter – not so much out of a personal sense of vengeance, but because my profession needs a good kick in the rear end.

I'm sick and tired of spoiled little twits like Warren, perched in their comfortable offices in New York, firing salvoes on tireless, hard-working, committed journalists like Jerome Corsi and the rest of my team at WND without any accountability to standards of professionalism.

Farah also manages to find another conspiracy in the Esquire satire: the possibility that the White House put Warren up to the spoof. Farah notes:

Who is Mark Warren? He's Harry Reid's collaborator. In other words, he's a liberal Democratic hack, not a newsman. Who else is he? His professional bio posted at Esquire says he has worked there since 1988. That's 23 years in the insular world of a New York girlie mag. And he is in charge of Esquire's political coverage. He's also an acolyte of Dennis Kucinich and Christopher Hitchens. Maybe you wonder where a guy like this cut his journalistic teeth? Actually, he has no journalistic teeth. He worked in local Democratic Party political campaigns and staff positions until plucked out of obscurity by Esquire in 1988.

And some actually scoffed when I suggested the distinct possibility that the White House may have been behind this dirty trick!

Naturally, he finishes his rant with an appeal for financial contributions to wage his legal war on Warren, Esquire and its parent corporation, Hearst. You can make a donation through the same WND "superstore" that still sells Corsi's book. 

Biden's Dude Problem

| Tue May 24, 2011 10:07 AM EDT

Women's groups have a bone to pick with Vice President Joe Biden. Biden has convened a series of closed-door meetings with various advisers and members of Congress to tackle budget negotiations with Congress. Despite the fact that women will be disproportionately affected by many of the decisions thanks to their over-representation in big-ticket programs for the elderly such as Medicare and Social Security, Biden has not included a single woman in his meetings. The "gang of men," as the National Council of Women's Organizations have dubbed it, includes: Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), U.S. Senators John Kyl (R-Ariz.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). The gang is negotiating with Biden, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, budget director Jack Lew, and economic adviser Gene Sperling.

The oversight is pretty striking. Biden typically had a good record on women's issues while he was in the Senate, having drafted the landmark Violence Against Women Act in 1994, among other things. But he seems to have forgotten that there are girls in Congress and the administration who know something about the federal budget and economics. (See: Karen Kornbluh, for instance.) The women's groups are calling on Biden to include more female voices in the negotiations so that they are fairly represented.

And for good reason: Social Security, one of the main potential drivers of the budget deficit over the long haul, is a critical safety net for elderly women, who are also heavy users of the other budget-buster, Medicare. For women over 65, Social Security accounts for more than three-fifths of their income, according to a new study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. For older men, by comparison, Social Security accounts for only half of their income. Social Security keeps half of all women over 75 above the poverty line. Given those figures, any cuts to the program are likely to have a significant impact on women. Unfortunately, the only people in the room talking about it right now are a bunch of dudes.  

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