By Cameron Joseph - 05/30/12 10:30 AM EDT
In an address to a Michigan Tea Party group in early May, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) called for a government office to verify presidential candidates' citizenship and lamented Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) opposition to questioning President Obama on his birthplace.
When asked about Obama's birthplace, Hoekstra said he wanted to see a three-person governmental panel check candidates' legal credentials to be president. The footage was first obtained by The Hill.
Members of the so-called "birther" movement have continued to dispute the president's American birthplace, despite overwhelming evidence that shows Obama was born in Hawaii and is a U.S. citizen.
Hoekstra didn't address in the answer whether he thought Obama was a citizen, instead blaming McCain for not pursuing the question and saying the public debate on the matter had ended.
"I think with this president the book is closed ... I hate to say it, but I think the debate's over," he said. "We lost that debate in 2008 when our presidential nominee said, 'I ain’t talking about it' ... I'd love to give you the answer and say that I'm going to fight it, we're going to beat it and we're going to win it. I think it wasn't fought and we lost it."
When The Hill asked if Hoekstra thought Obama was a U.S. citizen, a Hoekstra spokesman simply said, "Yes." He did not address the rest of Hoekstra's remarks.
Hoekstra, a former head of the House Intelligence Committee, is running in a competitive primary to face off against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). He was establishment Republicans' favored recruit, although charter schools founder Clark Durant (R) has kept up with him in fundraising. Stabenow is considered the favorite against either candidate.
This is not the first controversy of his campaign. Hoekstra's first ad, which featured an Asian-American actress speaking in broken English and criticizing Stabenow’s policies on China, was lambasted by both Democrats and Republicans for being racially charged.
He recently parted ways with the ad's creator, Fred Davis, after it was revealed that Davis had pitched an ad campaign to another client that would have tied Obama to his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.