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PHOENIX — It was a presentation hyped by a tauntingly brief media notification more than 24 hours earlier: On Thursday afternoon, it said, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio would present the newest revelations on an investigation into President Obama’s birth certificate.
At 4 p.m. sharp, Arpaio and a member of his Sheriff's Office's Cold Case Posse had a big message for the 40-odd journalists in attendance: You were wrong.
Arpaio and his aides announced that a five-year investigation had proved that Obama’s birth certificate from Hawaii in 1961 was a fake. An accompanying presentation highlighted what they called “9 points of forgery” on the document, which focused on the angles of date stamps, typed letters and words.
According to the theory, the birth certificate presented to the public was created after copying and pasting information from the legitimate birth certificate of a woman born in Hawaii.
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The conference included an audience of mostly older supporters, many of whom would clap their hands or nod their heads at various points of the event.
Mike Zullo, a posse member, talked throughout the bulk of the news conference, and for about 50 minutes walked the audience through what he claimed was irrefutable proof that the birth certificate had been forged.
Zullo repeatedly insisted that the probe was not political and that he simply wanted to “clear” the president of the United States.
“It didn’t work out that way,” he said.
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Arpaio's focus on the outgoing president has spanned several years. Obama was a favorite subject in Arpaio's fundraiser emails, speeches and campaign ads, and the president was blamed for the lawman's civil rights-related legal battles.
Arpaio's persistence on the "birther" issues has outlived that of many other once-fervent supporters.
President-elect Donald Trump had been a leader of the movement to prove Obama was not a natural-born citizen and was therefore not eligible for the nation's highest office. After years of persistent questioning — seen by many as racially motivated — the president produced his long-form birth certificate in April 2011.
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In September, Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, announced he was dropping the issue.
Obama responded in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation: “I don’t know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over. I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change — none of those things weighed on my mind like the validity of my birth certificate.”