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. Luke,AZ

    The Vulture/Voucher ticket is headed towards defeat. The Republican party is imploding as we speak. The moderates have lost control of their party to the likes of : Akin,Ryan,Bachman,Arpaio,Head,Santorum,Palin,Trump,Cain,Cruz,Limbaugh,Hannity,Beck,Huckabee,Koch Bro.s,Gov. Brewer,Gov Walker etal.

    August 24, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. sweetjazz3

    But we have asked to see your tax returns, Mr. Romney. Nice try pretending to be transparent.

    Did your aides brainwash you from releasing them? It's okay, you can tell us. Or were you brainwashed when you passed Romenycare in Massachusetts? Were you brainwashed when you were pro-choice when you ran for Governor in Massachusetts? Or are you just another spineless politician without any principles?

    August 24, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. RRuin

    This "off the cuff" comment, wrongly categorized as a joke, was intentional and set up to please the white folk in that audience. Welcome to the hate group known as the Republican Party.

    August 24, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  4. Shirley

    Hey, Romney no one in Politic, but some American's are wondering if you are a U.S. citizen. We know you Mexican grandparents came here and was supported by government, and some of us want to know if you were born in the United State or in Utah.
    We will keep diggin for that information, but it would save us time if you just show us you Birth Record..

    August 24, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. Gurgyl

    Show taxes....

    August 24, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  6. DIna

    A man who panders to ignorance get votes has no convictions. A man who changes his positions as often as Romney has no convictions. A man with no convictions is the perfect tool for others to use for their gain.

    August 24, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  7. trickbunny

    It's interesting how the birthers and bagers will scream about Obama's birth certificate being a fake, yet they never address the fact that Obama's birth announcement appeared in Hawaiian newspapers the day he was born. I guess Republicans think Democrats conspired to build a time machine and go back and plant those birth announcements. Oy vey. Can't someone just look up microfilm in a library of those birth announcements and get this over with? Do they even still have microfilm or libraries? ha ha...

    August 24, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  8. Chewiedog

    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 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. okiegirl

    Hey Mitt, the Donald called and another check is in the mail.

    August 24, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. Stlchicago

    Shame on CNN for listing this as a joke. If you listen to Ronmey set up the topic; any moron knows it was not a joke. That aside, can any Republican help me understand why Republicans allow this Romney guy to avoid answering the easiest of questions about what he will do once in office; anybody? The GOP plays the birth card, race card, and the socialist card. But, isn't it Romney who was educated over seas for several years? Who's to say Romney was not brainwashed by a Russian spy. Maybe Romney is the Manchurian candidate.

    August 24, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Anonther one born with a silver foot in his mouth. These clowns are disgusting.

    August 24, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. Lawrence

    They don't ask Romney where he was born for one reason, he's white and Obama is Black that is why.

    August 24, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  13. Majesty Rider

    HEY MITT!.. WHERE ARE YOUR TAX RETURNS?!?! WE ARE STILL WAITING!!!! Or would you rather just hide behind your cult?

    August 24, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. the fox

    My ex-husband was born and raised in Michigan, and I certainly wouldn't vote for him.....

    August 24, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. Lisa P


    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
    You didn't notice that US Presidents are now subjected to exactly this level of scrutiny? Where have you been for the past two decades? And, more to the point, if Mitt Romney can't figure out how to watch his words as a candidate, can you imagine the sorts of messes he would create as President? Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he really did not mean to dog whistle all the die-hard birthers, racists and self-declared patriots with this (very) little "joke."

    Personally I hope that President Obama answers with a "joke" of his own: I'll show you my birth certificate if you show me your tax returns. That would be fair, wouldn't it? Though come to think of it it might be nice to put Mitt Romney's birth certificate under microscopic scrutiny as well - Michigan *is* distressingly close to Canada, after all, and we all know what Canada has that Mitt Romney once supported...

    August 24, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. mike

    what a complete a hole. birthers = racists. he showed his bc! what else do you want?

    August 24, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. Bill

    It's Bush's fault!

    August 24, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. gsbatch1


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

    Yeah he is too busy hiding his taxes, and that will take him the 2 years.

    August 24, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. Mike

    If somebody does ask to see Mitt's birth certificate, he'd commission a few polls and a focus group to come up with the reason why he won't be showing "you people" that either.

    August 24, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  20. Don

    Maybe in 2016 or 2020 they will ALLOW us to choose from better candidates. Assuming of course that they even count our votes anymore. Republicans, democrats, tea partiers, you are all idiots. This country is going down fast.

    August 24, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. Walt

    Hey Floyd,
    Here's a news flash buddy, Presidents don't rule. They lead the country they represent. Were not a Marxist country yet.

    August 24, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  22. hemplover

    Translation: "I'm white. The President is not."

    August 24, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. joshua

    too funny. Mitt makes a joke that has nothing to do wth obama and the liberal nut cases start foaming at the mouth. Keep it up Mitt. Cheers to Mitt for getting my weekend off to a good start and to Hillary Clinton for being the first birther.

    August 24, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. hemplover

    Translation: I am white. Obama is not.

    August 24, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  25. CoJo

    1st Romney criticizes Obama on the comment about business doing well, then he himself says close to the same thing.
    2nd Now Romney has joined the birther party.
    3rd now R/R have amended their health care plan. What, the original wasn't correct? Question on the voucher: does this mean you no longer have to look for a doctor that will except medicare? They can charge what they want? Cost increase here we come. The voucher is to help pay for private health insurance. As we all know the premiums for reasonable insurance is high. Also insurances WILL NOT cover pre-existing conditions... therefore the vouchers are useless... especially for the elderly that usually have pre-existing conditions.

    August 24, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
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