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. Marie MD

    This guy wouldn't know a joke if it hit him in the face. For somebody who needs the Latino vote he can't even mention Mexico and where his family is from because it wasn't about money it was all about polygamy!!
    Wasn't his father born in Mexico? How could he even think of running for president?
    Is this why this guy who hasn't done an honest work's day in his life wants to be president? Does he realize that he can't retroactively retire from the presidency. He's pretty much stuck with it, not that he is going to win, for four years?

    August 24, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  2. JOM

    The American people may not of asked for your birth certificate, but we have been asking for your tax returns.

    August 24, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  3. Nick

    The more I try to find ways to like this Romney guy the more I find him a con artist and simply disgusting.

    I may not agree with some of Obama's policies but I have lot of respect for him as a person. I am sure most of the INDEPENDENTS like me feel the same way. Just remember where our country was just four year ago. Obama is one of the smartest presidents we have ever had and hope to have him for four more years.

    August 24, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  4. mla

    oh boy Mitt, I can see canada from my house! what an idiot and this guy is running for prez...please! we are not in 2nd grade anymore.

    August 24, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  5. DENNA

    Sigh. Will the Repblicans EVER get over this crap? What MItt needs to talk about is those "Jobs, jobs, jobs" that Boehner and company when they fooled the Amerian electorate into voting them into congress. I think that Rep. Akin with his " legitimage rape" comments is probably the most honest one among them. At least he said what he meant.

    August 24, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  6. rositaCA

    WILLARD............you're not funny, in fact, the reason why we never ask for your birth certificate is.........NO ONE CARES

    WHERE ARE YOUR TAX RETURNS THOUGH....................EH?

    August 24, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  7. CHICO

    PEOPLE PAHLEEEZ! Romney makes a JOKE at a republican rally and you blow it all out of proportion like a bunch of petty drama queens? Apparently you like to dish it out but you cry like babies when the tables are turned! what a bunch of petty drama queens! where's the pacifier so we can plug up your whining!

    August 24, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  8. Doyle Mecham

    It appears the Ron Paul Supporters have a hard time accepting that he lost the Primary. Ron Paul is a good man, but if he was the right man for the job he would have won the Primary, he didn't come close. Ron Paul Supporters would be better served if they would throw their support to Mitt, unless they want another 4 years of Obama.

    August 24, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  9. felipe

    romney: I have nothing to hide, but I am hiding it anyway because you "folks" know every thing you
    need to know!

    August 24, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  10. Omar Dice

    Romney is trotting out the old Republican "southern strategy" made popular by Richard Nixon. Racism works. He says that he believes Obama was born in the U.S., wink, wink. But then panders to the racist Birthers with such an inflammatory comment. This is sickening in this day and age. No class, no true core beliefs. That is what you get with Romney. He wants to be President because it would great on his resume. Also, he is a corporatist who will do everything to further empower the wealthy in this nation. He believes in supply side economics and government deregulation. These are failed policies that have been applied over the last 30 years. We are in this mess precisely because of these approaches. The House and Senate have worked against change for the last 4 years. The last two years have been a complete joke. This is squarely the fault of the Republicans who have decided to tank the country in order to win an election. Traitors? Not in the legal sense, but morally, yes. They are traitors to the American people. Their allegence is to the wealthy. They are owned by the wealthy. They do their bidding.

    August 24, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  11. felipe

    Ryan: My budget plan is based on my catholic faith!

    August 24, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  12. Kyle

    "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."

    --You hear questions raised by republican birthers that would not have been there otherwise. What a stupid comment.

    August 24, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Sure! Romney did not mean it as a birther joke! The crowd just decided to roar in approval of something that would otherwise not even be taken as a 'joke'! We believe this account from Romney like we believe all his other 'truths'! The fact is that Romney has absoluteley nothing to lose and much to gain from being seen as a birther! After all the racist statements, e-mails and texts that has come out of some Repubs for the last three plus years, the so-called independants don't seem to feel a need to hold Repubs accountable for downright disrepect that they have shown for the office of the presidencey since Obama became the POTUS but they were quick to disapprove of Obama following his comments about the white law enforcement official who had a confrontation with Professor Gates who is African-American, at his own home a few years ago. So tell me, what does Romney have to lose by being a birther? The birther crowd in his party I am sure was thrilled! I have an educated friend, a staunch Repub who still rejoices every chance she gets to push the garbage about Obama being a muslim! So education or intelligence level is a non-existent factor when it comes to this kind of lies on the Repub side.

    August 24, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  14. Jay

    I have news for you R.Ip damon! It was not the Obama campign ad! Get your facts staright! Oh that is right! Repubs have no use for facts!

    August 24, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  15. Jay

    Sure! Romney did not mean it as a birther joke! The crowd just decided to roar in approval of something that would otherwise not even be taken as a 'joke'! We believe this account from Romney like we believe all his other 'truths'! The fact is that Romney has absoluteley nothing to lose and much to gain from being seen as a birther! After all the racist statements, e-mails and texts that has come out of some Repubs for the last three plus years, the so-called independants don't seem to feel a need to hold Repubs accountable for downright disrepect that they have shown for the office of the presidencey since Obama became the POTUS but they were quick to disapprove of Obama following his comments about the white law enforcement official who had a confrontation with Professor Gates who is African-American, at his own home a few years ago. So tell me, what does Romney have to lose by being a birther? The birther crowd in his party I am sure was thrilled! I have an educated friend, a staunch Repub who still rejoices every chance she gets to push the garbage about Obama being a muslim! So education or intelligence level is a non-existent factor when it comes to this kind of lies on the Repub side.

    August 24, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  16. Pizza

    Is he really that clueless . . . . the statment raises concern in the Latino community. What segment of the population has he not offended, , , , angry white men ? He can't win with that strategy !

    August 24, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  17. Lady C

    Everyone should know that Mitt's comments was planned. Great moment to talk about birth certificate when he was in Michigan(where he was born?) Now he can justify the remark by saying "I was talking about where I was born". Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Trump,and Karl Rove, is who he need to please, have advised him to what he needs to do to get elected. My only problem with all of this is; the world is watching this election and the campaign is focused on stupid issues. Both the Dems and Repub should stop with the nonsense or we won't be taken serious on affairs abroard in the future.

    August 24, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  18. marty

    I didn't think that Sarah could be one-upped......until now.

    August 24, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  19. yep

    RIP Damon. That was a super pac that did that RIP, not the Obama campaign. Don't you just love the Supreme Court. They have made it so anything goes and the campaigns can just deny that they have any affiliation. The always good one of "It Wasn't Me" Ridiculous.

    August 24, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  20. jakester

    At least Obama came up witha birth certificate. It may be good if he lived up to his 2009 promise of balancing a budget, reducing the debt, creating jobs, and what about a bipartisan approach. He has devided america, completely!

    August 24, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  21. D

    Poor Obama, Romney makes a joke and Obama whines. Boohoo
    Romney could have talked about Obama's time at Columbia, where hardly anyone remembers him. Did he go there as a foreign student? Did he actually go to class? Why are his records sealed? What is Obama hiding?
    No, Romney didn't say anything like that.

    August 24, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  22. HJA

    @R.I.P. Damon
    Sorry but that ad was a private PAC and not from the Obama camp. I've seen some real garbage being thrown out by the Repub PACs so you have nothing to complain about.

    August 24, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  23. malice420dotcom

    Great line... for America's Black Eye

    August 24, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. bresson

    Dog whistle people... he hit a chord with the "right" people (see applause in the footage) while having plausible denial when questioned about it. Masterfully crafted but intentional... You really think he hits the podium without his opening jokes scripted and approved???

    August 24, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  25. Dmac225

    I would also like to see Mitts birth certificate. Unless BOTH of his parents were citizens at the time of his birth and he was born on U.S. soil, he is ineligible.

    August 24, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
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