Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Funny "Facts" About the Gov.

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 24, 2009

Poor Bill Richardson. A couple of years ago there was a chance — a slim chance admittedly — that he would be elected president of the United States. And now writers can’t seem to even keep their basic facts straight about the guy.

Take Wikipedia, for instance. The last sentence in the very first paragraph in Richardson’s Wikipedia entry — as of late Wednesday night — reads:

“In August 2009, federal prosecutors dropped the pending investigation against the governor, and there has been speculation in the media about Richardson’s career after his third term as New Mexico governor concludes.”
True, it seems that Richardson has been around forever. But actually, he’s still serving out his second term. (Better click fast if you want to see that mistake yourself. Wikipedia is an ever-changing creature, and someone’s bound to correct it shortly after this column is published.)

But while Wikipedia is extending Richardson’s tenure in office, a column published Wednesday in The Milford Daily News in Milford, Mass., cut short his term, referring to him as “former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.”

This isn’t the only time this mistake has been made. On the CBS News Web site, in an Aug. 19 story about his meeting with North Korean diplomats, a caption on a photo calls him “Former Gov.”

Back in February, when PBS reported on Gary Locke being chosen for U.S. commerce secretary, the story noted “Locke is Mr. Obama’s third nominee for the post after former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg withdrew from consideration.”

And a month later, the Newnan, Ga.-based Times-Herald, in a column about corruption scandals, said, “Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was on his way to becoming commerce secretary, then pow!”

Baby talk: That Milford Daily News column also made a surprising statement about our “former” governor. It calls Richardson “an anchor baby.”

Following his recent mishap at Elephant Butte Lake, Richardson probably wouldn’t appreciate any nautical metaphors. But, according to columnist Marie J. Parente, an anchor baby is “an offspring of an illegal immigrant or other non-citizen, who under current legal interpretation of the 14th Constitutional Amendment becomes a United States citizen at birth.”

Says Parente, “His mother, a Mexican citizen, married his late father, a native Nicaraguan, who worked in Mexico as an American-Citi-Bank executive. When Richardson’s birth was imminent, his mother crossed the border to Pasadena, Calif., to give birth. She and her husband believed ‘more opportunities’ for their unborn child existed in the United States.”

Most of that’s true. Richardson’s mother is a Mexican citizen. However the governor disputes the claim his father was a “native Nicaraguan.” In his autobiography Between Worlds, Richardson wrote, “My father’s determination that I be born in the United States can largely be explained that he was born on a boat on its way to Nicaragua.”

The governor’s grandfather was a biologist who collected specimens for several American museums, Richardson wrote. His dad was born when his family was headed to Central America on a field trip. “The fact that he was born outside the country was something my father resented all his life,” Richardson wrote. “He had an American upbringing, growing up in Boston.”

Granted, I’ve heard a couple of theories from Richardson haters that the elder Richardson wasn’t a citizen, but I haven’t given much thought to such chatter.

But think of how this Nicaragua connection would have excited the “birthers” — those loonies who claim President Barack Obama actually was born in Kenya — had Richardson been elected president.