Before Obama undertook his quest for the American presidency, and was trying to enter the US senate, there were widely spread rumours that he had, during a televised debate, admitted he was not qualified to run for President. Eventually two witnesses stepped forward who claimed to have seen the event. They gave the following testimony to the Post and Mail, and are reported to be ready to sign a sworn affidavit testifying to what they saw. The C-Span tape of the event has never surfaced.
In mid April, finding myself with a lot of spare time, I started watching C-Span on cable tv, from my home in the mornings. When they announced that they were going to rebroadcast the Alan Keyes vs. Barack Obama debates, unedited, I was delighted, because I am an Alan Keyes fan. I watched the entire first and second debates. I distinctly remember that I had never heard of Obama; my interest was in seeing what Keyes said about the pro-life issue and school vouchers.
At one point in the second debate, Keyes, accused Obama saying, “You are not even a natural born citizen!”
To which Obama immediately replied, “So what? I am running for Illinois Senator, not the presidency.”
At the end of the airing of the second debate, the C-Span host noted, as he read from a single sheet of paper, placed before him, that the Obama Campaign had contacted them and requested them to point out to their viewers that Obama’s response here should not be understood as a denial that he is a natural born citizen, only that Keyes’ accusation had nothing to do with the qualifications of office of a U.S. Senator.
I distinctly remember my dismay at Obama’s response, at that time, concerned why he called the office he was running for “Illinois” senator, but did not call the U.S. Presidency with any distinctive adjective. I subsequently spoke with Alan Keyes, one evening, by phone, when he appeared on Plains Radio:, in January, I think. I asked him about this exchange; he said he did not remember it; but he did not deny it took place.
The second witness gave a much more detailed statement.
The video I saw on Youtube may or may not have been recorded by C-span. It was a year ago that I viewed it, but the image is still very clear in my mind. It was definitely from the second debate held on Oct 21, 2004. It did not take place back stage as some have reported. Both candidates were standing on the stage behind their respective podiums. The background was blue. Actually, when I first saw the Youtube video, my first thought was that the debate was held outside because all you could see beyond the candidates was what looked like a perfectly clear blue sky.
The clip was actually filmed from the side of the stage. Keyes was standing in the foreground behind his podium and Obama was beyond that on the far side of the stage. Even though they were still at their podiums as they were during the debate, the comment made by Keyes was almost as though it was an ‘aside’, definitely not in response to a question from the panel. He may have been breaking in at the end of one of Obama’s responses. I really could not say ‘when’ during the debate it occurred. But it was very casual-like.
Whoever filmed the clip was holding the camera low if they were standing on the stage. However they could have been standing off the stage to the side. The camera was situated so that it was in a line that intersected Keyes somewhere between his knees and waist, pointing about 15-30 degrees up and was far enough away to include the stage floor as well as the entirety of the candidates from their feet to well above their heads in the frame.
I know it was the second debate because this is the only debate with this background and candidates standing at podiums. The entire video only lasted 10-15 seconds if that. The thing I do not remember seeing was any logo, Cspan or ABC 7, which is prominent on every video I have seen of the debates. It might have been there, but I do not remember it. So it might have been a video recorded and posted by a private citizen and not a station segment.
As I said, it was very short. The entire clip just showed Keyes as he turned his head toward Obama saying, ‘Well, you’re not even a natural born citizen.’ Obama confidently responds, ‘That’s OK, I’m not running for President, I’m only running for the Senate.’ That was the end of the video. Very, very short.
The question is whether C-span has the clip. Cspan may have kept their cameras rolling the whole time regardless of a break in the debate if there was one. I do not know.
Footnote; There are many videos out there from that time, and although the common belief is that the video of the above conversation has been deleted, I’m not so sure.
My advice to anyone wanting the fame and fortune of discovering this particular video is to do a Google search for “Keyes Obama Illinois Senate debate 2004” or some variation of those key words. A lot of stuff comes up, especially on C-Span archives.
The exchange is reported to have taken place during the second of three debates between Keyes and Obama, although it could have been in any. The description above of a blue background should be helpful.