Republicans Have Birthers, Democrats Have 9/11 Truthers

For all the emphasis on the apparent hold that birthers have on a significant portion of the GOP base, it’s worth noting that as recently as five years ago it was the Democratic Party that was the home of people who believed in bizarre, irrational, conspiracy theories:

I’ve been looking for a good analogue to the willingness of Republicans to believe, or say they believe, that Obama was born abroad, and one relevant number is the share of Democrats willing to believe, as they say, that “Bush knew.”

There aren’t a lot of great public numbers on the partisan breakdown of adherents to that conspiracy theory, but the University of Ohio yesterday shared with us the crosstabs of a 2006 poll they did with Scripps Howard that’s useful in that regard.

“How likely is it that people in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?” the poll asked.

A full 22.6% of Democrats said it was “very likely.” Another 28.2% called it “somewhat likely.”

That is: More than half of Democrats, according to a neutral survey, said they believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Dave Weigel uncovers some additional poll questions:

How likely is it that the Pentagon was not struck by an airliner captured by terrorists but instead was hit by a cruise missile fired by the United States military?

Only 11.9 percent of all voters believed that this was “somewhat” or “very” likely, but 21.1 percent of Democrats did.

How likely is it that the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York was aided by explosives secretly planted in the building?

A full 15.9 percent of all voters bought that; the number rose to 24.8 percent among Democrats.

I think that this, along with a good deal of the birtherism we see in the GOP is a reflection of the fact that we now live in a political culture where people are likely to believe the absolute worst about their political opponents. We saw during the Reagan/Bush years when the left spun tails of conspiracies to fix the 1980 election, and during the Clinton Administration with the Vince Foster story and the allegations about Mena, Arkansas. I’m not sure if people actually believe these things, or if it’s just a reflection of the fact that they hate the other guys so much that they’re willing to ascribe the worst possible motives to them.

Whatever the reason is, it cannot be healthy.



FILED UNDER: Middle East, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Chad S says:

    The difference being that there’s no major dem political figures who espouse truther theories-either because they believe them or to pander for votes.

  2. wr says:

    Right. And three quarters of Democratic presidential candidates signed onto Truther theories. And Democratic congressmen pushed laws to have them investigated. And Democratic governors and state legislatures pushed to pass bills acting on Truther theories.

    Oh, wait, no they didn’t. There wasn’t a single Democratic institution who spread these hysterical stories and tried to make political hay out of them.

    So there really isn’t any equivalence at all. What shock.

  3. G.A.Phillips says:

    There wasn’t a single Democratic institution who spread these hysterical stories and tried to make political hay out of them.

    lol, ok, sure they dint, but what about all the other ones from the BUSH DID IT years? Many of those are still going strong today.

  4. mantis says:

    How many candidates ran on 9/11 trutherism?

  5. How many declared candidates are running on birtherism?

  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    Who ran on BUSH DID IT!!!!! ?????

  7. Michael says:

    How many declared candidates are running on birtherism?

    The fact that you were compelled to add “declared” says it all. Is there nor or was there ever a person who was openly considering becoming a candidate who publicly supporter trutherism? I can’t think of any, nor do I remember any, not even the crazy, snowball’s-chance-in-hell potential candidates did that.

  8. Matt Parker says:

    GA – not sure you meant it as a real question, but who did run on that? Seriously? Show me someone of Grassley’s stature and prestige who publicly agreed with this shit.

  9. Matt Parker says:

    Of course, Doug’s greater point is right. That this many people believe this crap is pretty damning.

  10. Michael says:

    Of course, Doug’s greater point is right. That this many people believe this crap is pretty damning.

    This is also true, and I must say I’m surprised that the numbers are as high as they are. I had always felt that this crazy idea was much more fringe than that.

  11. Jay Tea says:

    Here’s a good metric: who among prominent Democrats showed up for the premiere of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and praised it effusively?

    Terry McAuliffe, Tom Harkin, Tom Daschle, Barbara Boxer, Max Baucus, Bill Nelson, Charles Rangel, Henry Waxman, Jim McDermott, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Theodore Sorensen…

    Anyone wanna argue that these folks don’t represent the “mainstream” Democratic party?


  12. wr says:

    “How many declared candidates are running on birtherism?”

    Nice move, Doug. Caught in a bit of intellectual dishonesty, you respond with an even more egregious example of the stuff. My hat’s off to you.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    not sure you meant it as a real question

    I am relentlessly bashing Obama and his supporters. He and they blamed Bush for every evil under the sun and won on that crap, and continue to use it as an excuse for the stupid that he and they do in many different ways.

    I am not a birther. I don’t care if he was born here.Unless it is shown that he wasn’t, haha then….muhahahaha…but that should be the least of our worries with this neo marxist union puppet at this time. I do have a good time fighting crazy with what the crazy think is crazy…..

    If your not a liberal or have liberal tendencies i.e. indoctrination symptoms, after a couple of post you should be able to tell when I am being serious or joking/bashing.

  14. NadePaulKuciGravMcKi says:

    truthers vs the 9/11 cover-up protectors
    Chuck and Jesse don’t buy it either

    awake from your slumber

  15. Chad S says:

    Jay, I don’t recall any trutherism in Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore accused Bush of using 9/11 to get approval for the Iraq war(which isn’t trutherism) and that the gov let the Bin Laden family of leaving the US without being questioned.

  16. Irrational behavior is like any other economic good. The cost of behaving irrationally has gone down in modern society so the demand for it has increased.

  17. Hey Norm says:

    It is a fact that Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, et al wanted to go to war with Iraq before 9/11 so at least there is some basis for this. Do I believe it, no. But there is absolutely no factual basis for the idea that Obama was born anywhere but Hawaii.
    Frankly I think the post is a reach…based on a shaky equivalency…but hey, it’s your website.

  18. Matt Parker says:

    GA – I assumed you were being sarcastic. My point is that mainstream liberals aren’t supporting trutherism like mainstream conservatives are with birtherism.

  19. Matt Parker says:

    GA – And the “Bush Did It” crowd was making (usually) legitimate points about hypocrisy in anti-Obama criticism.

  20. john personna says:

    I kinda doubt it, but just the same it sure speaks well of us moderates, independents.

    We are “least crazy,” right?

  21. Z says:

    What a sloppy false-equivalence-pox-on-both-your-houses-lazy “non-partisan” piece. Trutherism exists on the far right (see Alex Jones and fringe Ron Paul folks) as much as it does on the left. Moreover, the polls you cite have notoriously ambiguous questions. It’s one thing to argue that GWB planned and executed 9/11 through explosive demolitions and its another to ask whether people have heard about the notorious “Bin Laden Determined to Attack US” memo. A question that asks complicity is very different from a question that suggests willful action.

  22. mantis says:

    Fahrenheit 9/11 is not a truther movie. Do try to pay attention.

  23. Eric Florack says:

    The difference being that there’s no major dem political figures who espouse truther theories-either because they believe them or to pander for votes.

    THe reason for that’s rather simple… there’s reasonable arguments disproving the 9/11 “truth ” squads. There is no reasonable explaination for why Obama can’t cough up a legal birth cert, and why he’s spend millions in legal fees trying to make the whole thing go away.

  24. reid says:

    Florack proves once again that no fact can penetrate his angry bubble of ignorance.

  25. Matt Parker says:

    Eric — seriously? He has released a legal certificate, authenticated by the state of Hawaii, and valid for federal proof of citizenship. What more should he release?

  26. Albury says:

    Thanks for that excellent example of the tu quoque fallacy, Doug. I wouldn’t even know that 9/11 truther nuts existed if it weren’t for the Internet, and they’re a sorry footnote in the US political process, but there’s no shortage of GOP pols and pundits trying to make hay with the birther madness. We agree that the reason for either cannot be healthy, however.

  27. NH Truther says:

    Interesting piece – except for the 9/11 reference. It is no longer a mindless theory when 1,488 verified architectural and engineering professionals have put their reputations and livlihood on the line to question the “official story” which is completely unbelievable:

    “Directed by a beardy-guy from a cave in Afghanistan, nineteen hard-drinking, coke-snorting, devout Muslims enjoy lap dances before their mission to meet Allah.

    Using nothing more than craft knifes, they overpower cabin crew, passengers and pilots on four planes. And hangover or not, they manage to give the world’s most sophisticated air defense system the slip.

    Unfazed by leaving their “How to Fly a Passenger Jet User’s Manual” in the rental car at the airport, they master the controls in no-time and score direct hits on two towers, causing THREE towers to collapse completely.

    Then our masterminds even manage to overpower the odd law of physics or two… and the world watches in awe as three steel-framed buildings fall symmetrically – through their own mass – at free-fall acceleration, for the first time in history.

    Despite all their dastardly cunning, they stupidly give their identity away by using explosion-proof passports, which survive the fireball undamaged and fall to the ground… only to be discovered by the incredible crime-fighting sleuths at the FBI.

    Meanwhile down in Washington…Hani Hanjour, having previously flunked 2-Man Cessna Flying School, gets carried away with all the success of the day and suddenly finds incredible abilities behind the controls of a Boeing 707. Instead of flying straight down easily into the large roof area of the Pentagon, he decides to show off a little – executing an incredible 270 degree downward spiral, he levels off to hit the low facade of the world’s most heavily defended building.

    Hanjour does this all without a single shot being fired at him or ruining the nicely mowed lawn… and all at a speed just too fast to capture on any of the 80+ video cameras surrounding the Pentagon that day.

    Later, in the skies above Pennsylvania, desperate to talk to loved ones before their death, some passengers use sheer willpower to connect mobile calls that otherwise would not be possible until that technology is developed several years later.

    Following a heroic attempt by some to retake control of Flight 93, it crashes into a Shanksville field leaving no trace of engines, fuselage, luggage or occupants… except for a single, standard issue, Muslim Terrorist’s Bandana.

    Further south in Florida, President Bush, our brave Commander-in-Chief, continues to read “My Pet Goat” to a class full of primary school children as he shrugs off the obvious possibility that his life (and those around him) could be in imminent danger.

    Meanwhile back in New York, World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein blesses his own foresight in insuring the WTC buildings against terrorist attack only six weeks previously.

    While back in Washington, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz shake their heads in disbelief at their own luck in getting the ‘New Pearl Harbor’ catalyzing event they so desired in order to begin new wars and pursue their agenda of world domination.

    And finally, ignoring reports of their own deaths, at least seven of the nineteen suicide hijackers turn up alive and kicking in mainstream media reports. Our own media disregards this because they know that all suicide hijackers are liars.

    And there you have it. It’s ALL in the “Official 9/11 Commission Report” that everyone believes – but evidently doesn’t bother to read.”

  28. Albury says:

    Nice rundown of completely discredited 9/11 “truth movement” lies, but why don’t you record some interviews with the living hijackers and sell them to the media? You’ll make a fortune.

  29. NH Truther says:

    It’s been done by the BBC. You can google it if your guys haven’t already scrubbed it.

    Note: ALBURY is a known Troll working diligently to make sure the truth isn’t taken seriously. You can read about him here:

    You can see his postings all over the internet trying to debunk the 9/11 Truth Movement.

  30. Albury says:

    Why would I have to Google something that important and newsworthy, NH? Does only the 9/11 “truth movement” know about these living hijackers? Try addressing some of my comments at the link you provided, or would you rather just name call and toss insults? Did you ban me over there?
    Your first post here was a colossal pack of outright lies that have been debunked numerous times. 35 of the 37 calls from UA 93 were from seatback Airfones, and the carrier’s record of those calls was admitted into evidence during the Moussaoui trial. The other 2 were from cell phones, and were made at very low altitude in the minute or so right before the Shanksville crash. Almost the entire plane was recovered at the site, so were United Airlines and the NTSB in on your “conspiracy” too?
    How anyone could take a no-plane/no-hijacker “theorist” seriously is beyond me.

  31. mantis says:

    Oh great. The truthers have arrived.

    Can’t you focus on something a bit more important, like the fake moon landing or something?

  32. Jay Tea says:

    For the record, not only am I not “NH Truther” (not that anyone made such an accusation), but I am gravely ashamed that he is apparently a fellow Granite Stater. May I offer my apologies on behalf of our state? Our nuts are usually more entertaining and generally harmless…


  33. Albury says:

    That one’s apparently had a full dose of 9/11 “truth movement” Kool-Aid, judging from his comments. It’s even a mystery to him whether 4 planes were hijacked and crashed, so I’d write him off as a lost cause. Good grief…

  34. NH Truther says:

    For the record, not only am I not “Jay Tea” (not that anyone made such an accusation), but I am gravely ashamed that he is apparently a fellow Granite Stater. May I offer my apologies on behalf of our state? Our nuts are usually more entertaining and generally harmless…

  35. Albury says:

    He didn’t make the goofy claims that you did yesterday at 12:33, NH.

  36. Albion Icky says:

    Clearly, both of these theories are equivalent.

    In one, the theory is that the President of the USA might have been technically born outside of the US, and therefore technically ineligible to be president. Terrible. Evidence for this theory include the fact that his name includes the word “Hussain”, he knows where Kenya is, and didn’t publish the long form of his birth certificate (until now). Effect of this being true – he could be ousted from his post on a technicality.

    In the other, the theory is that elements of the administration of the time were waiting for a major event to occur on US territory, and so when they heard such an event might be being planned, they either stepped aside to allow it, or even gave it a helping hand. Evidence for this theory include documents and books published by key members of the administration several years prior to the event, three physically implausible building collapses (following the tragic airline hijackings and crashes), certain rich and powerful people making financial deals that the events of 9/11 made them a small fortune (several billion dollars), charges of which were dropped by the authorities because they couldn’t possibly have known about the events in advance, physical evidence of a specialist form of thermite in the remains, remains that stayed hot enough to melt steel for several weeks, and, let’s see, the activities of the Able Danger team which were unsuccessfully covered up, and of course that half the members of the 9/11 commission have come out to say that it was s sham. Result of this – changes to the freedoms enjoyed by US citizens which overturn much of the constitution, two wars of aggression, hundreds of thousands dead.

    Naturally, these two completely wacko theories are entirely equivalent. The most shocking must be that Obama might have been born outside of Hawaii. That is truly terrible.

  37. Albury says:

    I want some of that thermite that stays hot enough to melt steel for weeks after it secretly drops massive hi-rises, leaving no melted column ends behind. Fuel oil’s up to ~$3.60/gal, and I’m going to heat my house next winter with a thermite-fired boiler instead.

  38. Liam says:

    What is irrational about the conspiracy theories. I didn’t procing things with science and common sense was irrational. The disproving of the truthers arguments are the only irrational retoric I ever hear. We use science/evidence and you use lies.

  39. Liam says:

    What is irrational about the conspiracy theories. I didn’t know proving things with science and common sense was irrational. The disproving of the truthers arguments are the only irrational retoric I ever hear. We use science/evidence and you use lies.

  40. NH Truther says:

    Note that even if it is true that OBL died last night: we did not need to lie, invade and murder a million innocent people in Iraq to get BinLaden. Two helicopters in Pakistan was enough.

    However, on November 2, 2007 Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto when asked who she thought might assassinate her, she said the same person who killed Osama Bin Laden. She was assassinated shortly after this interview in December 2007.

    Watch video starting at 5:33

    Also see: (a peek into a great book on the (much earlier) death of Osama Bin Laden)

  41. Docten says:

    I find the hardest thing for the “debunkers” to address is the serious cover-up after the crime.

    Why did it take Bush 441 days to start a commission? Why so under-funded? Why put a white house insider in charge? Why did both Co-chairmen of the commission say “it was set up to fail”? Why was so much testimony omitted? Why did military testimony contradict itself? Why was no one fired? Why was evidence blatantly destroyed? Why were rules of fire investigation violated? Why have judges disallowed every case that has been brought to court? Why were security companies protected from lawsuits? Why did nobody from the government test for explosives right after? Why did Bush et al fight the commission every step of the way? Why was the commission given a short time frame to finish? Why was the commission not given the powers of subpoena or contempt?

    Given that it was the crime of the century, it seems to be the botched investigation of the century.

    I can’t believe anyone is really comfortable with all we don’t know.

  42. Albury says:

    Why haven’t you actually read the 9/11 Commission Report or furnished any of the applicable rules of fire investigation that you’ve cited, Docten? It wasn’t the Commission’s purpose to investigate the WTC collapses, and NIST has more than adequately addressed the controlled demolition questions from the 9/11 “truth movement” in 2 FAQs released in 2006 and 2007, as well as in NCSTAR 1A. Judges have ruled for 9/11 plaintiffs on numerous occasions since the al Qaeda suicide attacks occurred, and have also tossed out absurd allegations from conspiracy theorists. Before rejecting the results of the investigations already conducted, please feel free to read them.

  43. NH Truther says:

    Yes, I read the bogus “9/11 Commission Report” . And it failed to mention the total freefall collapse of Building #7 – a 46 story skyscraper that wasn’t hit by an airplane on 9/11.

    It was not significantly damaged by the falling towers either….because Building #6 was in between these two buildings. See:

    And then there is the seismic evidence that confirm eyewitness reports in the sub basements of the towers BEFORE any airplane hit the towers.

    The “official Bush investigation” wasd laughable and people like Albury are employed to go around and spread false info and muddy the waters so nobody will look…..

  44. NH Truther says:

    Oops, that last sentence should read…..

    And then there is the seismic evidence that confirm eyewitness reports OF EXPLOSIONS in the sub basements of the towers BEFORE any airplane hit the towers.

  45. Albury says:

    The towers didn’t collapse because of failures in their sub-basements, and there was no evidence that columns or other steel there or anywhere else was cut by explosives. If you actually had read the 9/11 Commission Report, you’d know WHY there’s no mention of any of the details about the WTC collapses, and no mention of WTC 7 at all, since it’s very obvious just from reading the index. Claiming that I’m paid to argue with you is beyond stupid, and you’re simply wrong about court rulings for 9/11 plaintiffs since 2001. I’d suggest taking up another hobby.

  46. NH Truther says:

    William Rodriguez and 22 other witnesses were there when the explosions in the sub basement of the North Tower began….BEFORE the airplane hit.

    And no “official” mention of Building #7 collapsing at freefall speed is an obvious cover-up. Duh.

    And why would you admit to being a paid Troll? You certainly do not need to – it is obvious because you spend all of your time spreading lies to confuse and cover up the truth.

    Wherever the truth is told…Albury always shows up. :o) I’m a fan of this relentless Troll…..lies are complicated bu truth is simple. All in all, you handle your lies better than most.

    But just watch that video link and explain that? Huh? Huh?

  47. Albury says:

    Cutter charges in lower levels don’t take >1 hour and 42 minutes to collapse buildings starting ~1200′ higher, and would have killed most of the people nearby or at least permanently deafened them. They would have been heard from miles away, and would not have blown off elevator doors and doused a few unfortunate people with flaming jet fuel from the impact level of the North Tower. What did these explosions do, since they clearly didn’t cut any steel, some of which was ~7″ thick in the columns below grade in each tower?
    Collapse times are explained in NCSTAR 1A, and your “researchers” simply made up the story about 6.5 or 6.6 seconds for the entire WTC 7 facade collapse. Elapsed times or partial ones also don’t indicate what caused a collapse. Duh.