While the Republican Party gears up for its biggest event of the year next week in Florida, the conspiracy theorists among them are already looking forward to another convention of sorts next month in Arizona.
Some of the best known birthers in the nation are scheduled to take the stage at a star-studded event in Phoenix, where they plan to call for Congress to investigate whether President Obama’s birth certificate is real.
There will be singing. There will be speeches. Drinks will be available for purchase. The only question is whether the venue, which features seating in the round, will activate its spinning stage. Promoters are calling it “A Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots Event” but you can call it Birtherpalooza.
The star of the gala is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the eccentric Arizona lawman and a Republican who is running for his sixth term in office this year. Arpaio has been trying to find his way into next week’s festivities at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., even scheduling an “invitation only” event for Republicans at a nearby zoo. But he will not be part of the convention itself.
Arpaio has positioned himself as one of the leaders of the birther movement. For almost a year, he has been using a combination of taxpayer money and amateur volunteers to try to bolster the conspiracy theory that Obama’s birth records are elaborate forgeries designed to put a foreigner in the White House.
At a news conference in July, Arpaio proposed the idea of having Congress take up the investigation. He said he and his investigators could only take things so far. He noted Congress had investigated other things, including the botched federal gunrunning investigation known as Fast and Furious.
“They’re looking at everything else,” Arpaio said. “I think this is very significant.”
So far the “evidence” he produced has largely been testimony of fellow birthers who are already true believers in the conspiracy. The theory was widely debunked even before the White House released a copy of the president’s birth certificate last year. But that hasn’t stopped Arpaio and others from holding tight to the movement.
Birtherism is largely a fringe theory, but it has made its way into mainstream Republican circles, too. Mitt Romney, who is scheduled to accept his party’s nomination for president at the Republican National Convention, joked during a campaign stop on Friday that “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.” Donald Trump, a high profile birther who has long declared his belief that Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii and who has voiced support for Arpaio’s investigation, has promised a “big surprise” at the RNC.
But the main event for the movement will really be on Sept. 22 at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix. There, for a ticket price ranging from $10 to $30, the supporters of the movement will have a chance to mingle with some of its heroes.
Among the stars will be Pat Boone, the 1950s crooner who came out as a birther last year with a videotaped rant captured by the San Francisco Chronicle. Boone, a member of the Beverly Hills Tea Party, called the president’s birth certificate “a photo-shopped fraud.” He is scheduled to speak and sing at the event.
Also in attendance will be former Army Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, who was court martialed and sentenced to six months in military prison in 2010 for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. Lakin disobeyed the deployment orders, he said, because he believed Obama was ineligible to hold office.
Finally, Arpaio and his main birth certificate investigator, Mike Zullo, will provide an update on where their investigation stands. “Show. Us. The. Mircofilm,” Arpaio said back in July. “I said it a while back. Show. Us. The. Microfilm. And we’ll all go back home and forget this.”
Watch Pat Boone’s birther rant captured by the Chronicle:
(h/t Phoenix New Times)
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com