FACT CHECK: Anti-Obama film muddy on facts

Associated Press
President Barack Obama speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the White House, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, in Washington. Obama talked about the presidential race and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the exclusive AP interview before heading off to a long weekend with his family at Camp David, the secluded presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains. His comments come ahead of the GOP convention opening Aug. 27, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
.

View gallery

WASHINGTON (AP) — "2016: Obama's America," a new conservative film exploring the roots of President Barack Obama's political views, took in $6.2 million to make it one of the highest-grossing movies of last weekend. The film, written and narrated by conservative scholar Dinesh D'Souza, argues that Obama was heavily influenced by what D'Souza calls the "anti-colonial" beliefs of his father, Barack Obama Sr., a Kenyan academic who was largely absent from the president's life.

To document that claim, D'Souza travels to Kenya to interview members of Obama's extended family as well as to Hawaii and Indonesia, where Obama grew up. He also cites several actions and policy positions Obama has taken to support the thesis that Obama is ideologically rooted in the Third World and harbors contempt for the country that elected him its first black president.

The assertion that Obama's presidency is an expression of his father's political beliefs, which D'Souza first made in 2010 in his book "The Roots of Obama's Rage," is almost entirely subjective and a logical stretch at best.

It's true that Obama's father lived most of his life in Kenya, an African nation once colonized by the British, and that Obama's reverence for his absent father frames his best-selling memoir. D'Souza even sees clues in the book's title: "Notice it says 'Dreams From My Father,' not 'of' my father," D'Souza says.

But it's difficult to see how Obama's political leanings could have been so directly shaped by his father, as D'Souza claims. The elder Obama left his wife and young son, the future president, when Obama was 2 and visited his son only once, when Obama was 10. But D'Souza frames that loss as an event that reinforced rather than weakened the president's ties to his father, who died in a car crash when Obama was in college.

D'Souza interviews Paul Vitz, a New York University psychologist who has studied the impact of absent fathers on children. In Obama's case, Vitz says, the abandonment meant "he has the tension between the Americanism and his Africanism. He himself is an intersection of major political forces in his own psychology."

From there, the evidence D'Souza uses to support his assertion starts to grow thin.

D'Souza says Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, shared his father's left-leaning views. After living in Indonesia for several years, D'Souza said, Dunham sent the younger Obama to live with his grandparents in Hawaii so he would not be influenced by her second husband, Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian who worked for American oil companies and fought communists as a member of the Indonesian army.

"Ann separates Barry from Lolo's growing pro-Western influence," D'Souza says in the film. Obama has said his mother had sent him back to Hawaii so he would be educated in the United States.

In Hawaii, D'Souza asserts with no evidence, Obama sympathized with native Hawaiians who felt they had been marginalized by the American government when Hawaii was becoming a state. D'Souza also asserts — again with no evidence — that Obama had been coached to hold those views at Punahou, the prestigious prep school he attended in Honolulu.

"Oppression studies, if you will. Obama got plenty of that when he was here in Punahou," D'Souza says, standing on the campus.

In Kenya, D'Souza interviews Philip Ochieng, a lifelong friend of the president's father, who claims the elder Obama was "totally anti-colonial." Ochieng also discloses some of his own political views, complaining about U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq and saying the U.S. refuses to "tame" Israel, which he calls a "Trojan horse in the Middle East." D'Souza seems to suggest that if a onetime friend of Obama's late father holds those opinions, so too must the president himself.

D'Souza then goes through a list of actions Obama has taken as president to support his thesis. Many of them don't hold water:

— D'Souza rightly argues that the national debt has risen to $16 trillion under Obama. But he never mentions the explosion of debt that occurred under Obama's predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, nor the 2008 global financial crisis that provoked a shock to the U.S. economy.

— D'Souza says Obama is "weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadists" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He does not mention that Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the drone strikes that have killed dozens of terrorists in the region.

—D'Souza wrongly claims that Obama wants to return control of the Falkland Islands from Britain to Argentina. The U.S. refused in April to endorse a final declaration on Argentina's claim to the islands at the Summit of the Americas, provoking criticism from other Latin American nations.

—D'Souza says Obama has "done nothing" to impede Iran's nuclear ambitions, despite the severe trade and economic sanctions his administration has imposed on Iran to halt its suspected nuclear program. Obama opposes a near-term military strike on Iran, either by the U.S. or Israel, although he says the U.S. will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.

— D'Souza says Obama removed a bust of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because Churchill represented British colonialism. White House curator William Allman said the bust, which had been on loan, was already scheduled to be returned before Obama took office. Another bust of Churchill is on display in the president's private residence, the White House says.

___

Follow Beth Fouhy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bfouhy

EDITOR'S NOTE _ An occasional look at campaign arguments and how well they adhere to the facts.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • The internet roasts a photo of Donald Trump writing his inauguration speech

      When times get tough, at least you can still meme. President-elect Donald Trump is slated to deliver his inauguration address on Friday, so he teased his Twitter followers with a little behind-the-scenes photo of himself writing a speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. SEE ALSO: Don's Johns: Port-a-potties get censored for Trump’s inauguration Writing my inaugural address at the Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks ago. Looking forward to Friday. #Inauguration pic.twitter.com/S701FdTCQu — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2017 The staged photo and Trump's cold, dead gaze sent the internet straight into "meme mode alpha," where it was pointed out that Trump was actually holding Sharpie marker, which may or may not actually be closed. @realDonaldTrump that is a blank piece of paper and you're holding a closed sharpie pic.twitter.com/ekCcH8eTXe — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 @cajunmonkey439 @realDonaldTrump It is *obviously* a sharpie. pic.twitter.com/gdD2AUhBKX — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 .@realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/8CSroNshBR — XpeK (@peKofX) January 18, 2017 Surprised that you didn't just use this photo as your epic, bigly speech pic.twitter.com/SezwzToFg4 — Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) January 18, 2017 good job @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/Ioj869Tfy3 — uhhh (@_uhhhhhhh) January 18, 2017 pic.twitter.com/pAKcXAEAkD — Sam Grittner (@SamGrittner) January 18, 2017 @realDonaldTrump #NotMyPresident #TheResistance #conflict #Putin #Inauguration In house security cam Mar a Lago pic.twitter.com/diwnpjAS3F — Beo Bachter (@kaysintBB) January 18, 2017 Early draft of Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. #TrumpSpeech #MyFirstWordsAsPresident #MAGA pic.twitter.com/qgo1glv5cG — Tom ❄️ (@TommieWho) January 18, 2017 Exclusive sneak peek at Trump's inauguration speech! pic.twitter.com/6W6ex0Ks3z — Kara Calavera (@KaraCalavera) January 18, 2017 Trump's Inaugural address leaked... pic.twitter.com/J8soJQ4Ira — Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) January 18, 2017 Exclusive: #Trump's Inauguration speech leaked! #TrumpInaugural #trumpgrammar pic.twitter.com/XzrXXpnjxD — Gerry Stergiopoulos (@GerryGreek) January 18, 2017 According to CNN, Trump did write his inauguration speech himself. BONUS: NBD, just a massive alligator out for a stroll

      Mashable
    • Cancer Patient Who Did 'Juju on That Beat' During Chemo in Viral Video Dies

      Ana-Alecia Ayala, who made headlines in October for dancing up a storm during chemotherapy treatments, has died after a year-long battle against cancer.

      Inside Edition
    • Documents: Woman knew for months she'd been stolen at birth

      An 18-year-old who was kidnapped as an infant discovered months ago that she had been raised by her abductor under an assumed name, court documents show.

      Associated Press
    • Foreclosed mall once valued at $190M is auctioned for $100

      TARENTUM, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania mall that was foreclosed on after its owners failed to repay $143 million has been auctioned off for $100.

      Associated Press
    • Everything We Think We Know About the Upcoming Ford Bronco and Ranger

      Ford promises a new small pickup truck and a return of the legendary Bronco name. Here's what to expect.

      Road & Track
    • Ex-president George H.W. Bush moved to intensive care; wife hospitalized

      Bush, who at 92 is the nation's oldest living ex-president, has been at Houston Methodist Hospital since Saturday after experiencing shortness of breath, family spokesman Jim McGrath said on Wednesday. Since then, Bush experienced an "acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia" and was sedated for the unspecified procedure, his office said.

      Reuters
    • Deadly snow avalanche hits hotel in earthquake-stricken central Italy (15 photos)

      Rescue workers were met with an eerie silence Thursday when they reached a four-star spa hotel struck by an avalanche in a mountainous earthquake-stricken region of central Italy. At least 30 people were missing, including at least two children, authorities said. Guests at the three-story Hotel Rigopiano in the central Abruzzo region alerted emergency workers of the disaster on Wednesday, following a series of quakes in the region. “Help, we’re dying of cold,” one couple wrote rescuers, according to the ANSA news agency. Another man, identified by news reports as Fabio Salzetta, sent a SMS message saying he had escaped with a maintenance worker, but that others were trapped inside. Corriere della Sera quoted the text message as saying: “Some walls were knocked down.” And: “I’m outside with a maintenance worker but you can’t see anything of the hotel, there’s only a wall of snow in front of me.” When rescuers on skis arrived in the early morning hours of Thursday, they found just two people alive, according to news reports. Civil protection authorities said that 30 people were missing. The ANSA news agency quoted a rescuer as saying that there were fatalities, but details weren’t immediately available. Just one body was reported removed from the hotel by late morning Thursday. (AP) See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr .

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Durant dazzles against former Oklahoma City team once more

      OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Russell Westbrook promised to pay back Zaza Pachulia for a hard foul.

      Associated Press
    • When presidential inaugurations go very, very wrong

      As Constitution Daily counts down to Inauguration Day, we look back at three presidential ceremonies from the 1800s that ended very badly.

      National Constitution Center
    • Donald Trump Is Already Tweeting Us Into War with North Korea

      The next president has managed to put himself on a collision course with Pyongyang. Can he cut a deal to stop it?

      Foreign Policy Magazine
    • A Family's Fight: Mom and Her 1-Year-Old Daughter Battling Cancer Together

      She wasn't expecting her own diagnosis, much less her daughter's.

      Inside Edition
    • Giant Florida Gator Is Not For Tourists, Nature Preserve Staff Warn

      Officials for the county's natural resources division said, although, they appreciate the attention the nature reserve has been getting, they are also worried about the safety of visitors and wildlife.

      International Business Times
    • Virginia man convicted of 2006 slaying of family is executed

      JARRATT, Va. (AP) — A man convicted of killing a family of four, slashing their throats and setting their home ablaze after they left their front door open while preparing for a New Year's Day party in 2006, was executed Wednesday.

      Associated Press
    • Fatal Autopilot crash wasn’t Tesla’s fault, investigators decide

      The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed its six-month-old investigation into the fatal crash of a Tesla Model S , which was being driven by the Autopilot system when it collided with a truck last May. The NHTSA will not seek a recall of Tesla's vehicles, and the report said that the agency's examination "did not identify any defects in the design or performance of the Automatic Emergency Braking or Autopilot systems." The crash occurred on a highway in Florida on May 7th last year. The Tesla was being driven a few miles per hour over the speed limit in the left lane of a two-way highway, when a truck with a trailer turned across both lanes towards an exit. The Tesla's radar and cameras failed to pick up the trailer, and the Tesla drove directly into the side of it, killing the driver. Since the accident, Tesla has updated its semi-autonomous Autopilot feature to force drivers to be more hands-on, and treat it like a driving aid rather than an actual Autopilot. Despite the name, Tesla says that Autopilot is still a beta feature that requires drivers to monitor the road just like normal.New Tesla cars also have an updated version of the Autopilot with more sensors, which should prevent a similar accident from happening again. Despite the one fatal crash, Autopilot is statistically safer than human drivers. According to Tesla, Autopiloted vehicles have driven over 200 million miles by this point, with just one fatality. The average for human-driven vehicles is one fatality every 94 million miles, although the numbers are probably skewed a little, as a Tesla is safer than the average car in a crash, and the majority of Autopiloted miles will be driven on divided highways, which are safer than regular roads.

      BGR News
    • Djokovic suffers huge shock at Australian Open, Serena serene

      Novak Djokovic suffered arguably the biggest defeat of his career when he crashed out of the Australian Open to 117th-ranked Uzbek Denis Istomin on Thursday, extending his mystifying slump in form. With Istomin inspired, the defending champion sent down 72 unforced errors as he lost 7-6 (10/8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 in the second round to end his bid for a record seventh title at Melbourne Park. Later, Rafael Nadal beat Marcos Baghdatis and in the women's draw, Serena Williams ousted Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-4.

      AFP
    • Iran Shocked by Deadly Fire, Collapse of Tehran High-Rise

      A historic high-rise building in the heart of Iran's capital caught fire and later collapsed, killing at least 30 firefighters and leaving their stunned colleagues and bystanders weeping in the streets

      ABC News q
    • Blake Lively Wins First People's Choice Award & Calls Out A Fan

      Not only did she take our breath away on the red carpet, but Blake Lively also melted our ours after winning her first People’s Choice Award

      Clevver News
    • Roethlisberger hoping to play up to Brady's "gold standard"

      Ben Roethlisberger intended for the moment to be private. The camera following him to midfield and the microphone tucked inside Tom Brady's shoulder pads ended up making that impossible. Their brief exchange ...

      Associated Press
    • Trump asks some 50 senior Obama appointees to stay on

      WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump has asked roughly 50 senior Obama administration appointees to remain in their posts after his inauguration to ensure continuity in government, his incoming White House press secretary said Thursday.

      Associated Press
    • North Korea's Kim Jong Un Is So Fat He Might Have Hurt His Ankle Again

      Kim's leg injuries have been linked to obesity in the past and recent pictures show the Korean leader appears to have put on extra weight. 

      International Business Times