A recent CBS/New York Times poll found that 25 percent of Americans and 45 percent of registered Republican voters believe that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Another 22 percent of Republican voters say they don’t know.

For the record, Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 at Kapi’olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. His birth certificate documents it. Hawaiian officials confirm it. And no one seriously doubts it except for a vocal minority of “birthers” who will do or say anything to get America’s first black president out of the White House.

Recently, the birthers have turned up the volume with the latest bombastic rantings of Donald Trump, the New York business magnate, reality TV star, and potential Republican candidate for president.

In recent appearances on “The View,” “Good Morning America,” “NBC Today,” and other shows, Trump, who is playing the media like a fiddle, has repeatedly made false and incendiary insinuations that Obama may not be a U.S. citizen and therefore not qualified to be president of the United States. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that Trump’s birther claims, as well as his flirtation as a presidential candidate, are nothing more than an insincere sideshow designed only to promote his personal brand and boost his TV ratings.

But as the new polls show, in the loony-tunes world of modern American politics, a sizeable portion of the electorate is responding. That’s unfortunate. It’s one thing for Trump to “fire” contestants on a weekly basis on his “Apprentice” TV show. It’s quite another to cynically fire up the right-wing base with lies that feed their already biased assertion that President Obama is somehow “not one of us.”

The mainstream media must pull the plug on this hoax. Trump’s birther-based candidacy is nothing more than a weapon of mass distraction that disqualifies him as a serious presidential contender. He’s taking valuable air time from others who have important things to say about the real issues of the 2012 presidential campaign, most notably America’s unemployment crisis.

Even pundits like Karl Rove, Bill O’Reilly, and Ann Coulter have discredited Trump’s birther claims. Rove recently called Trump a “joke candidate” who is pandering to the “nutty right.” And last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who last year signed a law requiring police to check the citizenship or residency status of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, actually vetoed a bill that would have required presidential candidates to show proof of citizenship before being admitted to the state ballot.

Another flamboyant American showman, P.T. Barnum, is credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Now that the White House has released Obama’s “long-form” birth certificate, U.S. citizens of all political persuasions and the mainstream media alike should reject Donald Trump’s ploy. With sky-high unemployment, an epidemic of housing foreclosures, crumbling schools, struggling urban centers, a worsening debt crisis, and seemingly never-ending wars, there are serious issues that need our attention. President Obama’s citizenship is not one of them.

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Marc Morial

Marc H. Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League. www.nul.org

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