First, there is the context of the call. Self-preclaimed Bishop Ron McRae, described as an American open-air evangelist from Pennsylvania (actually a street minister, with no congregation), placed the call to the 86-year-old Sarah Obama in the hopes of duping her into saying her grandson was born in Kenya. He records the conversation without informing the Obama family he is doing so; in some states, that is a criminal offense.
Ms. Obama, it should be noted, does not speak English. In fact, Swahili is not even her first language, although it is the language the translator uses to help her communicate with McRae. Ms. Obama speaks Luo.
In February 2008, NY Times journalist Nicolas Kristof went to Kenya to meet Sarah Obama (though he did not get to interview her):
Mama Sarah cannot communicate with Mr. Obama, who calls her his grandmother, because she speaks only her Luo tribal language and a little Swahili
The call was arranged by an associate of McRae's, known as Tom Shuhubia (or Kweli Shuhubia). Possibly Shuhubia does not speak Swahili, because although he arranges the call, he passes the phone to Sarah Obama's step-grandson, Vitalis Akech Ogombe, who serves as translator.
Greg Doudna, who has a doctorate in theology from the University of Copenhagen, listened to the tape which is available on the internet and transcribed the missing 9 minutes from Berg's transcript. It is available at http://www.obamaconspiracy.org , which is an excellent repository of information on this and other absurd wing-nut conspiracy theories. It was originally posted at http://www.lulu.com.
Here are some of the key remarks:
MCRAE: Uh, could I ask her, uh, could I ask her about his, uh, his, his, his actual birthplace. I would like to see his birthplace when I, when I come to Kenya in December. Uh, was she, was she, was she present when he was--
VOICE (in background): It is here.*
MCRAE: Was she present when he was born in Kenya?
*Note from Doudna) Or possibly, "she was here".
Doudna notes that in Kenya, birthplace can mean the place of your ancestry and not necessarily your actual birthplace.
BROTHER TOM (in background): He is asking her that, uh, he wants to
know something that uh, was uh you, was they, was she present when, ah,
he was born. Were they they there then?*
*Doudna says this last line is hard to decipher and is omitted from Berg's transcript.
Here's the part that gets birthers' undies in a wad:
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE: Yes, they say that yes she was. She was
present when Obama was born.
(McRae catches breath)
MCRAE: OK. Uh, when I come in December I would like to go by the, the
place, the hospital where he is born. Uh, could you tell me where he was
born? Was he born in Mombasa?
(Long pause. Puzzled sound from Translator Ogombe in background:
*Doudna writes "None of the audible questions' wordings as they were repeated for translation to Mrs. Obama reflect McRae's wording of "when he was born in Kenya". The Kenyan Obamas think the questioner is asking where Mrs. Obama was when Obama was born, not where Mrs. Obama was when Obama was born in Kenya. They answer that Mrs. Obama was present right there, in Kogelo, those many years ago when Obama was born in Hawaii."
None of the conversation beyond this point is contained in the transcript, and when you read it, it is easy to see why:
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE (responding to background voices, sounding
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE (to McRae): No! Obama was not born in
Mombasa! He was born in America!
MCRAE: Wh-whereabouts, whereabouts was he born? I, I thought he was born in Kenya.
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE: No he was born in America, not in Mombasa.
MCRAE: OK. Do you know whereabouts he was born?
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE: (Pause.) Huh?
MCRAE: Do you know where he was born? I thought he was born in Kenya. I was gonna go by and see where he was born.
(two male voices in background in foreign language speaking at the same
time. Mrs. Obama or another woman in background.)
VOICE (background): It was Hawaii.
VOICE OF MRS. OBAMA OR ANOTHER WOMAN (background): Hawaii.
BROTHER TOM (background): Hawaii, yeah?
VOICE OF MRS. OBAMA OR ANOTHER WOMAN (background): Yeah.
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE (background): Yes.
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE (to McRae): Sir, she says he was born in Hawaii.
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE: Yeah, in 1960 this was Hawaii, where his
father, his father was also marrying there. This was Hawaii.
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE: Yeah.
MCRAE: Was, was, was Mrs. Obama, was sh--was she present? Was, was Mrs. Obama, see I thought you said she was present. Was she, was, was she, was she able to see him being, being born in, in Hawaii?
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE (sounding exasperated): No, no! The, the
woman was not present. She was uh not, a what--you see, she was here in
Kenya, and Obama was born in America. That is, that’s obvious.
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE: Because, because the grandmother was married here in Kenya, and Obama was born in America, oh yeah, so his son, the little Obama, was marrying, was marrying, in America, in United States.
MCRAE: Oh, OK, fine. I mean, I--I just, I misunderstood what she was saying. I thought you said she was present when he was born.
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE: No, not present there. The present with me here was tonight. Not present so she can leave. No she was here in Kenya while he, uh, her son, the little Obama, was marrying in America. And, uh, he be present if it--
WOMAN'S VOICE (background): It was in Hawaii.
TRANSLATOR OGOMBE: --was in America there, why are they for, they go, they go, they go to some place, then the present isn't here sir, he was born there in America.
McRae then offers to send her a Bible written in Swahili, and her step-grandson explains that she cannot read Swahili, but someone reads her the Swahili Bible in Luo "so she completely understands." This seems to support Kristof's article that she is not fluent in Swahili.
So, basically, we have someone listening in Pennsylvania on speakerphone with a very bad connection to Africa (according to the court filings), to someone translating English into Swahili (or possibly Luo) to an 86-year-old woman who does not speak fluent Swahili in a room full of people, frequently interrupting. As evidenced from the transcript, even the translator lacks a perfect grasp of English.
The affidavit was sworn out by Tom "Kweli" Shuhubia, who claimed that Ms. Obama spoke fluent Swahili and that she insisted she was present for Obama's birth, that it was "commonly known" he was born in Kenya, and that "It appeared Ms. Obama’s relatives and her grandson, handling the translating, had obviously been versed to counter such facts with the purported information from the American news media that Obama was born in Hawaii."
The assumption that family members had been "coached" does not qualify as evidence; it is the unsubstantiated opinion of the person swearing out the affidavit, for which even he does not claim to have evidence.
It is interesting that in his affidavit, Shuhubia--who met with Sarah Obama well before the call with McRae--does not say Ms. Obama ever, at any point prior to the call, told him Obama was born in Kenya. He only mentions her saying so during the call.
McRae's intent is solely to get evidence that Obama was born in Kenya; Shuhubia arranges this call, yet he Sarah Obama had never told him previously that Obama was born in Kenya. Surely, he must have asked before the call, since this was McRae's only interest in Sarah Obama and his "mission" with McRae. What, then, are the implications of this? It means Shuhubia already knew Ms. Obama asserted Obama was born in Hawaii, but McRae and Shuhubia hoped to manipulate the Sarah Obama to make it appear she was saying otherwise. Her family stepped in and thwarted his efforts to take advantage of this elderly woman, which is why he sought to discredit them in his affidavit.
It should be noted that Shuhubia appears to have had a financial arrangement with McRae and/or Jerome Corsi (a disreputable Birther), which can be viewed in emails here. (Scroll to the bottom.)
In one of these emails, Shuhubia claims an official "confided that the file of ANN DUNHAM--the mother of Obama is missing."
The problem with this, of course, is that when Obama was born, his mother went by the name STANLEY ANN, not ANN. In addition, she was married to Obama's father, which means she would have gone by STANLEY ANN OBAMA, not DUNHAM.
Then there is this 2007 article from an Illinois publication, referenced at http://www.obamaconspiracy.org, which says:
Six months after they wed, another letter arrived in Kenya, announcing the birth of Barack Hussein Obama, born Aug. 4, 1961. Despite her husband's continued anger, Sarah Obama said in a recent interview, she "was so happy to have a grandchild in the U.S."
http://www.obamaconspiracy.org has a wealth of information debunking this whole ridiculous fabrication, but I felt it was important to bring the full transcript out, front and center, and highlight Liddy's blatant lie about having a deposition from Sarah Obama, which the media let pass without quesiton.
And what was with Liddy's performance on Hardball anyway? He seemed really out of it, almost drugged.
**UPDATE -- Yellow fever, cholera, smallpox, malaria, etc**
Based on when Barack and Stanley Ann Obama were known to be attending university classes in Hawaii, the absurd wingnut Birther theory is that she flew to Kenya around the 7th month of pregnancy and came home to Hawaii shortly after Barack Obama Jr. was born.
To travel to Kenya in 1961, Stanley Ann would have had to get vaccinated against yellow fever. The African countries had implemented a strong yellow fever eradication program beginning in the 1940s. In 1960, there was a major outbreak of yellow fever in Ethiopia, with widespread activity in Kenya:
In the 1960s, epidemics occurred in both Africa and the Americas, causing thousands of cases in West Africa where vaccine coverage had waned or was absent,
From 1960 to 1962, the largest outbreak to date in Africa occurred in southwest Ethiopia. Additional serologic studies confirmed that yellow fever activity was widespread in Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.*
*Henderson BE, Metselaar D, Cahill K, Timms GL, Tukei PM, Williams MC. Yellow fever immunity surveys in northern Uganda and Kenya and Eastern Somalia, 1966-1967. Bull World Health Organ. 1968;38:229-37.
Kenya is an area where yellow fever is endemic, and because of this--and malaria--pregnant woman today are advised not to travel there.
Obama was born in August, right in the middle of peak yellow fever season:
YFV transmission in rural West Africa is seasonal, with elevated risk during the 2-4 months that the rainy season ends and the dry season begins (usually July-October);
The yellow fever faccine is not safe for pregnant women and was also not administered to children under age 1, nor was the smallpox vaccine administered to children under age 1. Yet to enter the United States in 1961 from a country with endemic smallpox (like Kenya at the time), you had to have a vaccination certificate:
Airport health officials were rather more rigorous in asking all arriving passengers where they had beeen in the preceding 14 days and requiring a valid vaccination certificate from all those who had been in a smallpox-endemic country during this period.
Kenya was not declared nonendemic for smallpox until 1969. Kenya also had a high rate of malaria and tuberculosis and cases of cholera. This is not a likely destination for a woman in her 7th month of pregnancy, and given the high infant mortality rate, it seems very unlikely her husband--by all accounts a highly intelligent man--would have decided to take her to Kenya at that time.