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. Pander Express

    Lou Ellen Brown

    Mr. Obama lacked the main part of his birth certificate, which was having an American born father. Where in the US is not so important, but the two(2)American parents is what makes all of us who have them NATURAL BORN CITIZENS.

    August 24, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |

    Really? Really???? Do you really not have a problem with putting your name on such ignorance for all the world to see? First, you are wrong. Secondly, by your line of reasoning, Romney would not be eligible to be president either, as his fther was not born in America

    August 24, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. T T

    Keep digging, Mittens! You are doing a fine job of it!

    August 24, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Dan

    Actually the "birther issue" began when Obama's grandmother said she was at the hospital in Kenya when he was born........
    THAT would make ME wonder too!

    August 24, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. JC

    Sheesh ... I love all the Outrage over this joke! Can't a candidate for president make a light-hearted dig at the other candidate, without the entire media jumping all over it? It almost seems that the media folks are listening to Romney's speech and trying to find ANYTHING ... no matter how small, to distract attention from the economy. I thought it was a funny remark, and I completely believe that Obama was born in the USA.

    August 24, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Larry

    Interesting an Obama would say the following: Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them," LaBolt said.

    Obama has without doubt embraced the most strident voices in his party and has not challenged a single one of them. In fact he propagates their fairy tales. Until Obama denounces those that paint Romney as a murder, that yell that all Republicans are believe what Akin believes, and igive back Bill Maher's money.....Obama has zero room to talk!

    August 24, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. jake49

    Why, uh, I am outraged at this blatant form of jocularity on the part of our next president. How dare he insult the entire illegal immigrant community. “Uh, sir, your green card”, oh thank you.

    August 24, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. Ted McD

    Birtherism pure and simple ....this guy just get's more desperate and creepier everyday .

    August 24, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  8. nothing new here

    The GOP should have worked harder to get Ron Paul the nomination, instead of this Republican insider.
    The GOP had a golden opportunity to elevate someone that could have gained the support of people from the left, right and moderates.
    The GOP could have had someone that can talk policy, without personal attacks and playing the "God card".
    What a disgrace.

    August 24, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. Holier than thou

    So very tacky. This is not what I want to see in my President. Nor do I want a first lady with any less class than Michelle Obama. This Republican nominee and his wife know neither how to represent the American middle class, nor relate to them.

    August 24, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. JC

    Look a squirrel!!

    August 24, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Lenny Pincus

    Given all the news today, this Bain thing is blowing up big time. Romney's tax returns are radioactive.

    August 24, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  12. Kevin H

    I'm a bit amused by Willard "Mitt" Romney, his father is a naturalized American, he ran for President, no one cared that he was born outside of the US – his birthplace Colonia Dublán, Galeana, Chihuahua, Mexico. Thus Governor Romney, his father, was in the same boat as his opponent. The difference is that the rules change when it's a Romney. That's why they can viciously, vehemently oppose calls for ten years of their taxes. Taxes according to the Romney's are for the "little people" and Willard paid his taxes so we shouldn't want to pry farther. Well I want to pry. I want to see his taxes – just as his birther friends wanted to see the President's "real" birth certificate. He has very little room to wiggle here. He is the son of a Mexican immigrant.

    August 24, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  13. Fred

    No one's asked to see Mitt Romney's birth certificate because he doesn't have a birth certificate.....He came with a Warranty!

    August 24, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  14. Debra from Atlanta

    And let us make this clear, IT WAS NOT A JOKE. This man is a racist and a bigot that believes that black people are a cursed.

    August 24, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  15. Chat Pata

    He badly wants democrats to spread false rumors about him, the way his party spread about Obama. How would he like Democrats to say that he is not Christian (which is true, he is a Mormon), the way Republicans said Obama was not a Christian (which is false, as he is a Protestant Christian).

    August 24, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. Vietvet

    Romney's so called "joke" was an appeal to the racist birthers. He is saying to the far right, "Hey folks, I am one of you."

    August 24, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  17. Christopher

    Mitt, that's because you're white and Republican. That said, if Obama were either of those, you're stupid base would never have gone birther on the country.

    Comments like that just reinforce the majority's already bad impression of you. No amount of your and your fellow wealthy donors' money can buy this election for you because, in the end, your damaged goods!

    August 24, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  18. mrmagoo

    I'm Christian and not voting for the Mormon cult. Many Christian Republicans will sell out because the guy has an (R) in front of his name. Not this Republican!!!!

    August 24, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. WDinDallas

    Heh heh that's funny!

    August 24, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  20. David

    His statement implies they "know", but how would they know outside of skin color. He could have been born in South Africa or ANYWHERE outside the US. There is no basis for assumption of eligibility of Romney or ANYONE.

    White people are limited to the US! I didn't care about his or Obama's birth certificate, but now that he jokes about it I want to see it (Romney's). If you're prepared to make a joke, you should be prepared for the consequences, especially when you're running for President.

    August 24, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. bob in LA

    It is not a fringe group of Republicans. It's a very large minority of Republicans believe this nonsense about the president not being born in the United States. And Romney is playing that card. It is so elitist of him. Of course we know Romney's birthplace. He was born into prominence and wealth. He hasn't distanced himself from the birther movement in the same way that he has not distanced himself from "legitimate rape."

    August 24, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  22. snowdogg

    Yes Mitt... but almost everybody has asked to see your income tax returns – let's say going back to 2000 at least.

    August 24, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  23. Tony

    The issue is not that Romney avoids taxes. Rich people avoid taxes legally. Avoiding taxes legally is what tax attorneys are for, and Romney can afford their services. The issue is that Romney avoids taxes but is not man enough to own up to it. What is worse, he wants to give himself another 20% tax cuts, on top of whatever taxes he already can avoid legally.

    August 24, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  24. Riddle me this!

    Obama recieved federal aid as a foriegn exchange student! THAT'S why he won't release his college transcripts, and has spent big money on lawyers to keep his records secret. If he was truley a foriegn exchange student then he was not born in the U.S. and he violated the prerequisite for being POTUS. If in fact he was born in the U.S. and recieved fedreal aid as a foriegn excahnge student, then he defrauded the government out of those funds which is a felony. THAT'S why the GOP wants to see his school records. NOT because of his grades. WAKE UP YOU RUBES!

    August 24, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  25. Woman In California

    @ myviewis

    Try this: birth certificate v tax returns shall we? 2012 would be a LANDSLIDE for Obama.

    August 24, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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