COLUMBIA, S.C.— Texas Gov. Rick Perry repeatedly sidestepped questions at a press conference here about whether he believes President Obama was born in the United States.
Asked by a reporter from CNN, “What would it take to convince you that the president was born in this country and do you have any plans to release your own birth certificate,” Perry said, “That is one of the biggest distractions that there is going.”
He added, “We need to be talking about jobs. If somebody wants to see my birth certificate, I can show it to them. But the fact is that is a distraction and Americans really don’t care about that.”
When the reporter repeated his question, Perry interrupted him and said, “What Americans really want to talk about jobs,” and shifted to laying out the jobs plan he announced earlier on Tuesday.
Another reporter shouted, “Answer the question,” but Perry did not address him.
The Texas governor was appearing here in the South Carolina statehouse to accept an endorsement from a state legislator. At the press conference, he was flanked by a dozen South Carolina lawmakers who are also backing him.
Obama released his long-form birth certificate in April, after some conservatives had for years incorrectly asserted he was not born in the United States. But Perry discussed that belief in a pair of interviews over the last few days. He told Parade magazine that he had talked to Donald Trump, and the businessman did not believe Obama’s birth certificate was authentic.
Then, Perry told John Harwood, a reporter at CNBC and the New York Times, in an interview he thought it was fun to “poke” at Obama by talking about the issue.
Two prominent Republicans, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, have called in recent days for GOP presidential candidates to reject the “birther” issue.
“Republican candidates should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States,” Bush told the Post’s Jennifer Rubin. “It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of the President.”
“Look, if this election is about Barack Obama’s policies and the results of those policies, Barack Obama’s gonna lose,” Barbour told reporters. “Any other issue that gets injected into the campaign is not good for the Republicans.”