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‘Born in Kenya’: Obama’s literary agent misidentified his birthplace in 1991

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
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Obama speaks at the Rose Garden April 2. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

A possible source of the so-called "birther" issue--or at least a potential cause of the rumors that have dogged President Barack Obama--has been identified.

Obama's former literary agency misidentified his birthplace as Kenya while trying to promote the then-Harvard Law grad as an author in 1991.

According to a promotional booklet produced by the agency, Acton & Dystel, to showcase its roster of writers, Obama was "born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii."

Miriam Goderich edited the text of the bio; she is now a partner at the Dystel & Goderich agency, which lists Obama as one of its current clients.

"This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me--an agency assistant at the time," Goderich wrote in an emailed statement to Yahoo News. "There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. I hope you can communicate to your readers that this was a simple mistake and nothing more."

A copy of the booklet was published on Breitbart.com, under the headline: "Obama's Literary Agent in 1991 Booklet: 'Born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii'"--part of the "vetting" of the president the site's late founder, Andrew Breitbart, had promised.

Here's part of Obama's bio from the 1991 brochure:

Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. The son of an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, he attended Columbia University and worked as a financial journalist and editor for Business International Corporation. He served as project coordinator in Harlem for the New York Public Interest Research Group, and was Executive Director of the Developing Communities Project in Chicago's South Side. His commitment to social and racial issues will be evident in his first book, Journeys in Black and White.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Breitbart.com published a lengthy disclaimer with the brochure, saying it does not believe Obama was born outside of the United States:

Andrew Breitbart was never a "Birther," and Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of "Birtherism." In fact, Andrew believed, as we do, that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961.

Yet Andrew also believed that the complicit mainstream media had refused to examine President Obama's ideological past, or the carefully crafted persona he and his advisers had constructed for him.

It is for that reason that we launched "The Vetting," an ongoing series in which we explore the ideological background of President Obama (and other presidential candidates)--not to re-litigate 2008, but because ideas and actions have consequences.

It is also in that spirit that we discovered, and now present, the booklet described below--one that includes a marketing pitch for a forthcoming book by a then-young, otherwise unknown former president of the Harvard Law Review.

It is evidence--not of the President's foreign origin, but that Barack Obama's public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times.

Despite that rationale, the publication will no doubt fuel "birthers" who refuse to believe Obama was born in the United States.

In a follow-up post, Breitbart.com noted that Obama was listed as being born in Kenya on the Dystel & Goderich website until April 2007, "just two months after then-Senator Obama declared his campaign for the presidency."

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