GOP Senate candidate pushes back on Arpaio: 'I believe that Barack Obama was born' in US

Arizona GOP Senate candidate Kelli Ward distanced herself Thursday from her Senate primary rival, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, after Arpaio resurfaced the debunked claims that former President Obama was not born in the United States.

"I believe that Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama in Kenya for launch of sister’s sports center Get ready for summit with no agenda and calculated risks US envoy to Russia: 'Highly unlikely' that Trump will recognize Russia annexation of Crimea MORE was born here, that he was our legitimate president," Ward said on CNN's "New Day."

Ward's comments came a day after Arpaio repeated in an interview with WABC's Rita Cosby the false claim that Obama's birth certificate was fraudulent, saying Congress should pass a law requiring that such documents be examined.

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Arpaio, 85, announced on Tuesday that he would enter the GOP primary and compete with Ward for the seat now held by Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Lawmakers demand answers from Mnuchin on tariffs | Fed chief lays out stakes of Trump trade war | Consumer prices rise at highest rate in six years | Feds to appeal AT&T merger ruling MORE (R-Ariz.), who's retiring.

But Ward, 48, also defended Arpaio's record on immigration in the CNN interview, saying he has been a "leader on fighting illegal immigration."

"Joe's a patriot. He has been a leader on fighting illegal immigration here in our state — we're a border state," Ward said.

Arpaio has long been a controversial figure in politics because of his hardline views on immigration and law enforcement.

After losing his reelection bid in 2016 after more than two decades as Maricopa County sheriff, Arpaio was convicted of ignoring a federal court's order to stop using racial profiling in law enforcement. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE later pardoned him.

Asked on CNN on Thursday how Arpaio has been a leader on immigration, Ward said the former sheriff stood up for the "rule of law."

"He has fought for the rule of law here in Arizona, and that's what people are looking at," Ward said.

--Updated at 9:57 a.m.