On Wednesday (the day after President Obama's birthday) Washington reporter Jeff Zeleny devoted his latest "On the White House" web column, "Persistent 'Birthers' Fringe Disorients Strategists ," to the fringe group that questions Obama's birthplace in Hawaii and thus his presidential eligibility.
Zeleny made it clear off the bat that the anti-Obama "birthers" are nutty and wrong in their "fringe conspiracy theory." But did the Times give similar dismissive treatment to a left-wing conspiracy theory many times more incendiary and improbable: That Bush orchestrated the 9-11 terrorist attacks?
No. In fact, reporter Alan Feuer went to a "Truther" convention in June 2006 and treated  the left-wing nuts with affection and even a little respect.
Here's an excerpt from Zeleny's Wednesday piece:
Their theory, of course, is false. But that has not stopped cable television and talk radio hosts from dedicating countless hours to the topic.
So much discussion has taken place that the White House says it has stopped monitoring it and the Republican National Committee has distanced itself from the so-called "birther movement," whose members insist that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. The fringe conspiracy theory - that he is not constitutionally eligible to be president - has taken on a life of its own and become a dreaded topic for some lawmakers.
Before House Republicans left Washington for their August break, party strategists offered advice for how to handle the situation if it arises during town meetings with constituents. Don't agree with the conspiracy theory, but show respect and try to broaden the conversation to specific policy disagreements with the Obama administration on health care, taxes or the deficit.
Zeleny allowed Democratic politicians to hammer Republicans for not attacking their "birther" supporters sufficiently:
"Some people have rather cynically let it run its course," Mr. Abercrombie said in an interview early Tuesday morning from Honolulu. "It takes advantage of a certain pathological obsession over this election and this person as president. The leadership in the Republican Party could end it very, very quickly and they haven't."
Deep in the article is the suggestion that it's the Democrats who are really pushing the matter.
James Kirchik of the liberal New Republic agreed , arguing the left wing is pumping up the story to change the subject from Obama's struggling health-care plan and the high unemployment rate.
Unlike Zeleny's take, reporter Alan Feuer's assessment of the 2006 Truther convention didn't label as "false" the beliefs of the fanatics who claimed 9-11 was an inside job by the Bush administration, even though their theory is far more implausible and incendiary than the idea that Obama was born in Kenya. Feuer's generous take on the Truthers suggested that the fact that 500 people gathered at a hotel somehow lent credibility to the underlying issue:
The text box from Feuer's story even suggested the 9-11 conspiracy theorists could be part of an "American tradition" of questioning authority: