August 24th, 2012
12:49 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney goes THERE: 'Birther' joke raises conspiracy theory

Commerce, Michigan (CNN) - Mitt Romney denied in an interview Friday that his reference to a highly charged political symbol - a birth certificate – was anything more than simply of homecoming humor.

"No, no, not a swipe," Romney said in the CBS interview referring to President Obama and the conspiracy theories over whether he was born in the United States. "I've said throughout the campaign that and before, there's no question about where he was born."

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"He was born in the U.S. This was fun about us and coming home, and humor - you know, we've got to have a little humor in the campaign as well," Romney continued.

Of course, humor needs a punch-line or it's not a joke.

It was a Friday campaign rally in Michigan, the state where Romney was born, where he chose to say, "Ann was born at Henry Ford hospital, I was born at Harper hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised."

A fringe of conservative Republicans continue to believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Those in that movement are referred to as "birthers."

A certification of live birth released by Obama during the 2008 campaign, and then the long-form certificate released by the White House in the spring of 2011, both stated the president was born in a Hawaii hospital on August 4, 1961. Contemporaneously published newspaper announcements also noted the birth in the Aloha State. Only "natural born" citizens of the United States are eligible to be president.

Romney said in the interview that the comment was some much-needed humor in this fiery campaign.

"Well we're in Michigan and Ann and I were both born in Detroit, and of course a little humor always goes a long way," Romney said. "So it was great to be home, to be in a place where Ann and I had grown up and the crowd loved it and got a good laugh."

But Obama's campaign was not laughing.

"Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them," spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement after the campaign stop, but before the interview.

"It's one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney's decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America."

LaBolt's statement referenced some of the highest-profile figures who continue to perpetuate the "birther" line, including Donald Trump, who earlier this year endorsed Romney and has said he will have a high-profile role at the Republican National Convention next week. Trump increased the drumbeat for the White House to release Obama's long-form in the spring of 2011, just prior to its release. Despite the document being in the public sphere, Trump has continued to question Obama's birthplace in media appearances and in social media posts.

Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden said after the candidate's remarks, "The governor has always said, and has repeatedly said, he believes the president was born here in the United States. He was only referencing that Michigan, where he is campaigning today, is the state where he himself was born and raised."

Another aide noted that Romney "wasn't using prepared remarks."

In his Friday remarks, Romney's reference was to his own birth certificate, not that of Obama. Nevertheless, the crowd roared when Romney made the quip, and many supporters afterwards said they remained skeptical about where Obama was born.

"I thought it was great because why should we have to worry about whether the president has a birth certificate or not," Guy Myers of Clarkston, Michigan, said.

Another supporter, Lauri Pierce of Midland, said it drew a contrast for her between Romney and Obama.

"Well Mitt's from Michigan. There's no question about where he's from," Pierce said. "And you hear a lot of questions about Obama. You don't know, but you hear questions."

CNN's Rachel Streitfeld, Jim Acosta and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Michigan • Mitt Romney
soundoff (1,152 Responses)
  1. avietar

    Romney's grandfather was a illegal alien who sneaked back across the border from the colony of polygamists he founded in Mexico. By what most modern Republicans believe, and have written into their campaign platform, he and all his family, including son George and, eventually, grandson Willard "Mitt" Romney should have been, and still should be, deported as illegal.

    August 24, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  2. Anitra

    Did Romney never apply for a passport? Does he not have a Social Security card? Somebody asked to see his birth certificate sometime.

    August 24, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. avietar

    Mitt Romney's grandfather was an illegal alien who sneaked back across the border from the colony of Mormon polygamists he founded in Mexico. By what most modern Republicans believe, and have written into their campaign platform, he and all his family, including son George and, eventually, grandson Willard "Mitt" Romney, should have been, and still should be, deported as illegal, making the nature, status and location of issuance of the latter's birth certificate completely irrelevant.

    August 24, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  4. sayer

    Those nuns should be ASHAMED for clapping at that comment. Real Christ-like, ladies.

    August 24, 2012 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  5. Give it a rest

    Romney has whined about Obama giving him cheap shots, even though the only think Obama is doing is using the same tactics the Republicans have been using for years. Republicans are typical school yard bullies. They call names, they punch below the belt, and then they break down when someone returns comments in kind. Pathetic, really. Now Romney makes a joke. It's not a joke. He's trying to get people, especially the far right nut jobs that are using the birther argument to throw doubt on the president, to remember the birther doubts without actually referring to it directly again. By doing this, Romney is trying to get those who would not normally vote for him, because he's too liberal, to line up behind him. There is no reasoning with birthers. They are such simpletons (including Trump) that they do not realize that presidents have their backgrounds checked by at least a half a dozen agencies. There is NOTHING the government doesn't know about a president when he sits in the oval office for the first time. Something as simple as where a president was born is easily found out, and though the birthers like to think their is a vast conspiracy outside the gates of the trailer parks they live in, it just isn't so. Romney is playing to that ignorance. Yet another slimy trick by a guy who is about as slimy as they come.

    August 24, 2012 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  6. JC in Western U.S.

    I guess this isn't what Romney would call a "low blow". The only people who question that Barack Obama was born to an AMERICAN mother in HAWAII are the racists in the Republican Party. If Romney was really just making a reference to having been born in the state where he was campaigning, he could have just said "I love being home, in the place where I was born and raised." But by adding the little "quip" as he wants to call it, he made reference to the birther conspiracy in an advantageous and "plausibly deniable" way – slimy. Even John McCain came down hard in no uncertain terms on people who questioned Obama's birth as an American citizen.

    August 24, 2012 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  7. Ken

    Funny – he made Ryan show him "several" years of tax filings (note the evasiveness – "several") to prove that he would be acceptable to be a candidate for Vice President. But the Big Kahuna Wannabee doesn't feel that it is necessary that he, as a candidate for POTUS should show anything more than 1 year and some working papers of a second year. Now he is relying upon his "Freedom of Religion" – he doesn't want to show how much he gives to his church. I'll bet that his church, after hearing about all these offshore funjds would like to see his taxes too!!

    Mitt – you're not the man your dad was!

    August 24, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  8. Lynda

    I don't need to see your Birth Certificate Mitt, but I would like to see those tax returns that you won't produce.

    August 24, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  9. ty

    wow..the more mitt says( and he often speaks but says nothing) the more he shows how ignorant, nasty and mean spirited he is..and mitt you are showing millions in off shore accounts does not mean you have class. shame shame shame...

    August 24, 2012 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  10. David

    It seems to be hilarious to the leftist media when Obama takes his "pot shots" at the right, but everyone is alll up in arms over a joke.... Romney has said may times that he is convinced Obama was born in Hawaii.... So get off your high horses and start reporting both sides.

    August 24, 2012 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  11. maximus

    Let us live in peace, brothers and sisters. Take a chill pill and be real, o'tay, baby bubba?

    August 24, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  12. Al Poole

    Are you kidding me? A vast majority of America has questions about Obama's backround! Keep up the good work CNN! Comic New Network

    August 24, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  13. BKK

    I want a genetic test to prove Romney is not a unicorn, infiltrating our government from the evil terrorist nation of Equestria. Why would he refuse to submit to one unless he had something to hide!

    August 24, 2012 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  14. walter wood

    Are you folks sure ole Mitt wasn't born in a test tube in the Caymen Islands? I haven't seen his birth certificate or the missing tax returns.........

    August 24, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  15. schigley

    people from the planet KOLOB should not joke about birth certificates it's beneath them.

    August 24, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  16. ron

    Buddy(aka Romney Hood), your entire campaign is "a little humor". No, in fact it's funny....sadly, silly even.

    August 24, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  17. LynneSki

    Oh yeah, that was a joke and Trumps hair is real, and Rush is as quite as a church mouse!

    August 24, 2012 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  18. lobo

    No but we sure do question your patriotism since you ran away and hid in france preaching some lonney tune ideas. Like I have always said never ever trust a draft dodger.

    August 24, 2012 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  19. wr

    well, maybe if Obama hadn't claimed to be born in Africa in order to sell books, this would never have been an issue. Who knew his entire autobiography was fictional? That's what we get for taking him at his word.

    August 24, 2012 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  20. mycolonstory

    Yeah, Romney – nobody has asked to see your birth Certificate ... but how 'bout those tax returns?!

    August 24, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  21. vrim

    It has long been known that racism is at the heart of the "birther" movement, which was started by men who believe that Commander in Chief should have forever been the exclusive domain for white males. They have spent untold millions trying to erase this man, Obama, and make sure his portrait never hangs permanently in the White House. So, I wonder, Romney, why you took the trouble to point out that you don't have to worry about or endure the strife and questioning that the first black Commander in Chief has to regarding his basic birthright as an American? Are you a racist, Mr. Romney?

    August 24, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  22. RP

    @bcm : This was more of a joke on the birthers than the president – people have lost their sense of humor. For all of you moaning about the joke – just listen to a great George Harrison ong about all of you WAH-WAH:

    Wah-wah
    I don't need no wah-wah
    And I know how sweet life can be
    If I keep myself free from the wah-wah
    I don't need no wah-wah

    August 24, 2012 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  23. Sirned

    Bidens comments that Wall Street would put us in chains is completely true.... They already have. Mitts comment is just fringe nonsense and not fitting for someone vying to be the most powerful man in our country.....

    August 24, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  24. hiruu

    Yeah, you don't question you Mitt, but your racist party does question the President. so what is your point.

    August 24, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  25. AhSo

    Romneysia must be getting his jokes from Jon Lovitz, another irrelevant pinhead.

    August 24, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
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