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. sally

    Romney's so-called joke is clear...he is courting the birthers and then denying it. He lies at the blink of an eye...the man is without principles and he insults us by suggesting that we can't read his message. Obviously, he thinks we're all stupid!

    August 24, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  2. Stlchicago

    These code based statements aren't fooling anyone.

    August 24, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. Barb

    It's okay for the Democrats to say and do anything they want and the media doesn't say anything. But let a Republican speak up and god forbid!!!! Hypocrite.

    August 24, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  4. Mi Poo

    No one asked to see his birth certificate because they honestly don't care where he was born. Oh, and because he is a white male, and that's what America is all about.

    August 24, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |

    WHAT A BUNCH OF RACISTS! COme on repugnentcans, this is a new low. Don't even fool yourself to think this was just a joke. Black jokes are funny, doesn't make them right to say. man, you guy's are seriously twisted. you almost mimic the south during the Civil War era. you all disgust me, If he wins, and it ruins at all my Canadian economy, I'm coming for ya.

    August 24, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. Dyslexic doG

    GOP propaganda for their uneducated, one issue, voting base:

    Everybody but you is on welfare.
    You are the only person who pays taxes.
    Consumers don't create jobs. Only the wealthy can.
    Taxes are unpatriotic. (This is especially true for the rich).
    Everyone needs to work hard and become a wealthy CEO. (We need 350 million more CEOs.)
    Civil servants are all rich, and cause all the problems in the country.
    All minorities are lazy and expecting a government handout.
    Someone wants to take away your gun.
    Infrastructure? We don't need no stinking infrastructure!
    Socialist, Communist, and Fascist all have the same meaning.
    If you aren't a White Christian, you are one of the above.
    Corporate owned media are "liberal".
    Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh are news sources, just like Howard Stern...

    August 24, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  7. rs

    Earlieer in the week I joked that because of their flubs and questionable policies, the GOP should be totally honest and embrace the crazy.

    Hmmmmmm. After Akin, Hart, and Mr. Romney's latest. They have- with a vengence!

    August 24, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. Cogito

    The fact that Romney is fueling the "birther" flames just shows he will do anything & sink to any level to get elected, which is really going to make it sting even more when he loses.
    The Republicans are rapidly becoming an irrelevant party (and so are the Democrats to a lesser degree), as is evidenced by recent idiotic remarks from Missouri & Texas Republicans (nothing new there), but more especially, their attempts to get Gary Johnson off the ballot in Michigan, Tennesee, Pennsylvania & Washington. They must see the writing on the wall.

    August 24, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  9. paulbark

    Romney continues to pander to the fringe, right wing element of his party. That's great for rallying the troops, but it scares independents and moderates. Keep it up, Mitt. Show your true colors!

    August 24, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  10. JFK

    Maybe Mitt should go overseas again and visit his money. While he is at it, he could self-deport. We don't need him and his trash-talking. This would save him having to worry about taxes and we wouldn't have to be eternally grateful that he saved the Salt Lake City Olympics.

    August 24, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  11. BOb the Prairie Dog

    If Obama was white, he'd be up by 20+ points.

    August 24, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  12. JustAO

    He and the other GOP candidates and congressman keep saying stupid shhhh. They must want everyone to vote for Obama unless you don't believe in science, fairness, or that discrimination existed in American history.

    August 24, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Harry

    Honestly, is there actually someone who doesn't now know that this personality deficient dweb is a moron?

    August 24, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. PJ

    Based upon the news we read yesterday about Romney's financial dealings and wealth.....he is making another fortune with this stock market.

    August 24, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. PR

    Romney needs to show us his marriage license to prove he isnt't married to more than one woman. You know that mormons believe in polygamy. Wonder where his other wives are hidden. And don't forget...SHOW US YOUR TAX RETURNS!

    August 24, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  16. Wise1Speak


    For trying to equate Romney's Dog-Whistle "birther" call to the racist base of the GOP, , , as just a "joke". CNN, have you no spine?

    August 24, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. Kelcy

    I don`t believe that Romney was born in the United States. Not only do I want to see the last ten years of his tax returns (as I suspect he has hid a lot of his assets off shore) but now I want to see his actual birth certificate, long form which I will not believe. I wasn`t there at the birth myself so clearly it can't prove it. They're mormon so dad and mom could have been anywhere in the world that particular day. I don`t believe Paul Ryan was born in the US either. I wasn`t there at his birth either.

    August 24, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. sTony in St. Louis

    Birthers-Only for the dumb and incredibly stupid! They should be locked up for being soooooooo lame. ....Ok. Mitt, sure you're from Michigan, i guess. But where are those tax retuns? Thanks in advance. – A registered voter!

    August 24, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. CoJo

    Romney = Trump + Bush

    August 24, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. Tony

    Akin is now begging Romney to get out of the presidential race. Romney is a millstone around Akin's neck. The Rasmussen poll reports that Romney trails Obama by 1 point in Missouri. Yes, the Rasmussen poll. In Missouri.

    August 24, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. Saml

    Really, you're so very white that no one ever asked to see your birth certificate to get a driver's license (we know you drive yourself, and your dog, at least some of the time) or to get a passport (we know you lived in mansions while on "mission" to France).

    August 24, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  22. Shannon

    oh look, Mitt catering to the white, hate filled, racist crowd. This man is not fit to be Presidend. He owes the President and the country an apology for this comment, to encourage the lunatic fringe of this country is beyond wrong.

    August 24, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. A Southern Lady - North Carolina

    Mr. Romney purchased the Republican nomination by using vast amounts of money to destroy the other Republican nominees. None could counter his big-bucks jabs. Now he is trying to do the same thing with the presidency. I considered Mr. Romney a good and decent man 'till his intense desire to gain the presidency required him to become someone he is not. To get the Tea Party support, he has done a complete turn- around from the good man that was governor of Mass, and has become a man, uncomfortable in his own skin, who knows what he saying about the President is untruthful and shameful. I wonder what he thinks of himself now?

    August 24, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  24. Crazy8

    No one has asked you, Romney, because you're a rich white male. It's no reflection of your honor but your response is an obvious pandering to racists. What will your next brag be–that you've never gotten pregnant after being "legitimately raped"? Wake up and see that the rest of the world doesn't have the same privileges as you. THIS is why American doesn't relate to you. Because you can't relate to them.

    August 24, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  25. Randy, San Francisco

    Romney's lack of character shows again. He isn't very sensitive to the motive driving the birthers...racism and intolerance. The GOP/Tea Party will fail to attract minorities because it continues to pander and cater to an extreme fringe element in the party.

    August 24, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
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