When Barack Hussein Obama became the US president in 2008, he faced determined opposition not just for his political policies but for his personal circumstances. He was accused by a large number of Americans as not being suitable for the position simply because, they claimed, he was not born in the USA (article 2 of the Constitution states the president must be a 'natural born citizen'). Obama, having been born in Hawaii clearly met this obligation but his detractors simply did not believe it. For them, the fact that his father was a Kenyan immigrant and his step-father an Indonesian Muslim, along with the fact that he had lived in Indonesia for a short time, was proof. Their rallying call was to demand the White-House release his birth certificate, hence 'Birthers'.

Although the conspiracy is most associated with Donald Trump, Breitbart and many right-wing commentators, the claims about his religion, place of birth and origins actually go back to his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign when it was suggested by another candidate, and some supporters of Hillary Clinton circulated anonymous chain emails repeating the same rumors during the Democratic campaign (though without the knowledge or approval of Clinton). These helped spread the rumours much more widely during the subsequent campaign against John McCain for the presidency and in June 2008, in an attempt to quash the rumours, the 'short-form' Birth cert was released showing his birth in Hawaii.The conspiracy mongers rejected that asking now why it took so long and why it was not the standard long-form. No reasonable explanation about the Hawaiian administrations policies was acceptable to them, and those that accepted the explanations simply dismissed it as a forgery, despite the document having been released by the Hawaiian authorities.

In 2011, Obama persuaded the Hawaiian authorities to produce the Long-Form certificate, again in an attempt to stop the growing clamour. This was again rejected as a forgery. Despite these official documents, a 1961 local Honolulu paper's birth notice, statements from family friends and acquaintances who knew his mother; birthers continued to reject his status. In 2012, Donald Trump offered to donate five million dollars to the charity of Obama's choice in return for the publication of his college and passport applications before October 31, 2012. Of course, birthers would refute any accusation that it was because Obama was a person of colour, had the middle name 'Hussain', had had a Muslim step-father and had attended an Indonesian Muslim school for a short period as a child. For proponents, every piece of evidence that was demanded and then fulfilled was subsequently rejected and replaced with a new appeal to a further impossible demand.