Perry cast doubt about President Obama’s birthplace, Honolulu, suggesting in two interviews this week that Obama may have been born outside the United States. If true, that would make his presidency illegal. This spring, as would-be candidate Donald Trump rocketed in opinion polls partly by pushing “birther” conspiracies, Obama publicly released his long-form birth certificate to prove that he was born in Hawaii.
In an interview with Parade Magazine published Sunday, Perry said he does not know if Obama’s birth certificate is authentic. He continued to press that point in an interview with John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times that aired Tuesday, saying: “It’s a good issue to keep alive.
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It’s fun to poke [Obama] a little bit and say, ‘Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.’ I don’t have a clue about where the president — and what this birth certificate says.”
Perry may have been trying to get under Obama’s skin and show Republicans that he would stand up to the president aggressively on any front. “I’m really not worried about the president’s birth certificate,” the governor told Harwood.
On Tuesday, Perry’s aides tried to turn attention away from the candidate’s comments. Asked to explain the strategy behind Perry’s fanning the birther rumors, campaign spokesman Mark Miner said: “It’s a non-issue. The governor is focused on improving the economy and creating jobs, issues Americans are truly concerned about.”
Still, Perry’s remarks alarmed some powerful Republicans, who quickly condemned his comments and said they distract voters from the one issue Republicans think they can ride to the White House: Obama’s record.
“If this election is about Barack Obama’s policies and the results of those policies, Barack Obama’s gonna lose,” Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told reporters Tuesday. “Any other issue that gets injected into the campaign is not good for the Republicans.”
Strategist Karl Rove, who has a well-documented rift with Perry, said on Fox News Channel: “You associate yourself with a nutty view like that and you damage yourself. . . . It starts to marginalize you in the minds of some of the people whom you need in order to get the election.”
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush wrote in a statement to Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion blogger at The Washington Post: “Republican candidates should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of the President.”