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. Brian

    I wish Romney would say something of substance. He tries to be as superficial as possible.

    August 24, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. Ronda in Houston, TX

    No one will ask for Romney's birth certificate for one reason.

    August 24, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. RParks

    Yeah, Mitt keep digging yourself in a bigger hole with that hole on your face. Obviously this guy thinks Americans are too dumb to read between the lines...* Tsk Tsk*

    August 24, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  4. mkriley39

    What Romney should have said was, "It wont take me two and a half years to fabricate, I mean produce, my birth certificate." LOL

    August 24, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. frespech

    Just a little more fodder from the lunatic fringe.

    August 24, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  6. andre

    I think Romney laid this egg to change the story from what we've been hearing about all week (Akin).

    August 24, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  7. guest

    no, we've just asked to see your taxes!!!

    August 24, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  8. 4pease

    Romney is a disgusting a hole. Nothing more to say.

    August 24, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. Lizzy10

    The real joke is Romney and a cruel one it would be if he wins.

    August 24, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. YoursIsNoDisgrace

    Romney is a low life, not worthy to be the CEO of major corporation.

    August 24, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. thednnetwork

    This is a serious gaff and in no way will help Mitt in the long run. This is one of the sloppiest campaigns have ever seen. Come on GOP! What are you doing?!

    August 24, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. talkymctalkerton

    No, Mitt, no one asked to see your birth certificate. But they DID ask to see your tax returns. Just saying.

    August 24, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Terry

    Damn, the wheels are falling off this country and this is what's making news!!! Romney is just a puppet for the 1% and he will do and say whatever they tell him. He has no core values outside of money, no charisma and certainly no guts. He can't or wont stand up to the likes of rush windbag, dopey donald or any of these other windbags. How is he going to stand up for the middle class Americans who desparately need a leader??? We need and FDR, JFK and a Ron Reagan not a Mittwit

    August 24, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  14. Harvty

    Jeez, lighten up folks. It was his attempt at some humor. But, go ahead run with it, turn it into some kind of racist rant if that makes your libbie hearts swell.

    August 24, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. asm_ith

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

    What a total crock!!! He just finished telling everyone the name of the hospital in which he was born, so the additional statement that no one asked him about his birth certificate was totally unnecessary to make the point that he was born in Michigan; after naming the hospital, he could have just said something like "here in Michigan", ever referring to birth certificates. His reference made it totally obvious that it was an appeal to birthers. He then goes on to say that the country needs someone who doesn't divide the county. What a hypocrite!!!

    August 24, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  16. Rortacude

    My grandmother said she was The Sun King and demanded absolute fealty from us her subjects (grandkids). Poor Granny had to be put down shortly thereafter.

    August 24, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. Be afraid.

    Cheap shot. Not a joke, but a well placed , preplanned assault on the Presidents American citizenship. This man scares the me! As a woman, I am genuinely fearful of him becoming President.

    August 24, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  18. HappilyNOTyou

    @ Dan, who said:

    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!

    Guess you missed out on the part where the translator who was working with the reporter talking to the grandmother turned out to be illiterate and not fluent in either English OR the dialect she spoke. She was speaking of the birth of the half-brother, who WAS born in Kenya after Barack Sr. moved back home and remarried. BTW, it was a home birth.

    Anyway, it wouldn't have mattered since under 8 US 1401, Barack Jr. would still be a natural citizen because his mother was. You might go look at that code and then get back to us. It is the same law that makes the children of military children born overseas citizens at birth, as well as the children born to parent(s) on vacation in foreign countries.

    McCain was born overseas before 8 US 1401's cutoff date for retroactive "natural" status, so he was technically NOT a citizen at birth and the Senate actually conducted a vote on his eligibility. George Romney was also born WAY before the cutoff date and, to my knowledge, never did have an eligibility vote. He never should have been able to run in the first place.

    August 24, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  19. DoThe Math

    The funny thing here is that Romney was born just a mile and a half from the Canadian border whereas Obama was born on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

    August 24, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  20. ted

    Romney proves he is a knuckle dragging ignoramus.

    August 24, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  21. Gpalmz

    Yikes, ugly bunch on CNN, isn't there! It was a joke, people! Lighten up.

    August 24, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    hammer observed:

    Not all democrats are stupid.
    Nope. But *all* angry people are stupid.

    August 24, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. RightyTighty

    So the left can call Romney a felon for 2 weeks without proving anything but Mitt Roney can't make an OBVIOUS joke? Get over it lefties you are looking like fools.

    August 24, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. HappilyNOTyou

    @ lmc2011

    Obama stated last week that Miltt should show his medical records. Amazing since Obama has not shown his. If Mitt has made enough money that he needs a Swiss account I'm all for it. He's the man that can get us out of Obamadebt!!!!


    Actually, Obama gets a full physical every year and the results are entered into the public record so your point is...?

    August 24, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. once upon a horse

    would love to ask the folks there that laughed at this "joke" if the trees in Michigan are REALLY all the same height?

    August 24, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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