Even though a recent CNN poll revealed that one of out every four Americans does not believe President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and is a legitimate citizen, research shows that Obama is not the first president to be considered an ‘imposter’. Historians say Americans accused many presidents in the past of being illegitimate officeholders for all sorts of bizarre reasons including being accused of wearing women's underwear, getting drunk at an inaugural ball, and once when critics said a president’s rich daddy stole the election.
"Heavens, where do I start?" says David Crockett, an associate professor of political science at Trinity University in Texas.
"No one wants to admit that they got spanked in an election contest. It's always nicer to think the opponent somehow cheated the system. So yes -- Obama wasn't born here, Bush stole the election, Clinton won only becausescrewed up Bush's [the elder's] chances, Bush the elder won only because he demagogued Willie Horton. ... I could go back further."
Thomas Alan Schwartz, a presidential historian at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, says that calling a president illegitimate is a common and often nasty practice that dates back to the 19th century. Schwartz says that although it is common to question a president’s legitimacy, it can be dangerous.
Examples include President John Tyler, who became the first president to assume office due to the death of his predecessor in 1841; Rutherford B. Hayes who took office after losing the popular vote but winning by one electoral vote in 1876.