August 24th, 2012
12:49 PM ET
10 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. rad666

    Romney could not even beat out the mayor of Wasilla in 2008, how does he expect to beat the president in 2012?

    August 24, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. Ann

    Is that a nun in the background? How ironic did she get the joke ? Go ahead and vote against your own interest to "take your country back", all you "One Percenter Wantabees in the background. If you think for one minute Romney gives a hoot about any of you.

    August 24, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. Keith

    only liberals could see telling a crowd of people where you are born as "stooping to anything". The democrats have lost, they know it and they are desperate as hell.

    August 24, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. Patricia

    In Romney's case, we HAVE asked to his tax returns.

    August 24, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. cornelius7213

    No wonder he's going to lose Michigan.

    August 24, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. emma

    We do know enough about you, Mitt, to know how you operate. We know you as eeping important secrets from Americans who value Democracy. The way you operate defines you as a pawn for the very rich, a tax evader, a guy with no foreign policy experience who thinks he is very knowledgeable in that field. You are also a guy who things fiscal policy talks should take place with a small group in a quiet room.

    August 24, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  7. Oliver A. Dyer

    Another "Dog Whtstle" statement to attract voters of a particular persuasion to Mitt's camp. Some will say it just the nature of politics and that's how the game is played. How about doing more to elevate the country's mind set as opposed to just getting more votes to win and/or promote a particular potlitical party's agenda. This would truly be patriotic.

    August 24, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. David

    I don't give a crap about your birth cirtificate... I give a crap about your tax return!
    What are you hiding Mitt?
    We all know you're hiding something... And it's millions of dollars that you are sheltering so you don't have to pay U.S. Income Taxes.

    August 24, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    "He was only referencing that Michigan, where he is campaigning today, is the state where he himself was born and raised." "

    Hahahaha...hold on...I'm not believing a word of that. Gimme a second to get out my tinfoil hat and drool bib and pour myself a sippy cup full of methanol-laced moonshine and I'm sure it'll all seem much more believable
    I needed that laugh my friend. Thank you. These mo fos are going to give me agita....if I let them.

    August 24, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. FrankinSD

    This is just so sad at so many levels. It is becoming genuinely painful to watch the party of Lincoln in its death throes

    August 24, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. maine liberal

    Mitt show me your Long Form 1040's back to your birth

    August 24, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. Khaleeshi

    This is a new low for Willard – he's a birther now. No one's asked to you see your birth certificate, but almost everyone's asked to see your tax returns, unfortunately he's hiding them. I guess he doesn't want America to see how he paid no US income taxes, his paychecks from Bain after 1999, and more offshore bank accounts for his billions. Why doesn't he invest in America?

    August 24, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  13. judith

    Mittens has just reached a low guttersnipe low with this "joke." Disgusting, vile and offensive–but that's the GOP!

    August 24, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. realitybites

    Why am I not at all surprised? Etch-a-sketch has gone the way of McCain and pandered to the rabid rabble of the far right.

    August 24, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  15. Bob

    Yup, the dems are all mad again. It is all fun and games until someone questions Obama then all of the sudden it is not ok anymore.

    August 24, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. dfeaster

    lets see those tax returns

    August 24, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  17. TexasAnnie

    Ditto to DP's comment . Well said!!!

    August 24, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  18. Joan

    Romney almost makes George Bush look smart. His forced sense of humour is almost embarassing. He was obviously trying to make a joke and raise the birther issue in the minds of the flock. Sometimes his stiff mannerisms and smile remind me of Richard Nixon. The debates this fall should be pretty interesting.

    August 24, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. realitybites

    Isn't Michigan the state that Mittwitt likes the trees b/c they're just the right heightt?

    August 24, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  20. Duane Allen

    These people are simply NOT the kinds of people we want representing the U.S.A. on the world stage: a clown and a dunce with little more than empty space between their ears. Either of them – you pick the one – make GWB look "almost" palatable.

    August 24, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  21. Dennis

    Wilbur Mitt Romney and his Republican Party what a disgrace they are to our country. President Obama has been less than a perfect President, but he has conducted himself with class, dignity and appropriate humor. He has been vilified by the far right by having his US Birth questioned, called a Muslim etc. He has accepted these racist attacks with dignity and grace. The man has character, and he will get my vote on election day.

    August 24, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  22. NameFrank Deery

    After Obama's supporters blamed
    Romney for causing
    someone's death, and no response from Obama, this is fair tongue-
    in-cheek payback!

    We need.a new President-
    with a sense of humor these days! Who knew??

    August 24, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  23. AK

    No one has asked Mr. Romney for the Birth Certificate but all are asking for his Tx returns what about that Mr Romney. any response to that Mr Not to be President.

    August 24, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  24. 10thoulks

    The Republican convention is going to be a disaster.

    August 24, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  25. rs

    It is good to see that Mr. Romney is trying to get a lock on the mentally ill vote (he apparently isn't doing will with outher voter categories, you know: minoritities, women, etc.).

    August 24, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
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