Obama takes shot at birthers in speech to prayer breakfast

During an address Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility Biden lays out immigration priorities, rips Trump for 'assault on dignity' Democrats not keen to reignite Jerusalem embassy fight MORE said critics should not question his citizenship.

"Surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith — or, for that matter, my citizenship," Obama said, drawing chuckles and a round of applause from some of the nearly 4,000 attendees at the Washington Hilton.

"Birthers" who question whether Obama is a U.S. citizen have raised questions about his birth certificate since the 2008 campaign. Even after proof has been offered of Obama's birth in Hawaii, some critics have questioned its legitimacy. Most mainstream politicians have dismissed questions about whether Obama is a citizen.


Obama focused much of his address on reviving a civil debate in politics.

"When we challenge each other's motives, it becomes harder to see what we have in common," Obama said.

Every president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 has spoken at the National Prayer Breakfast, often speaking about their views on religion and faith and how their administration uses them to lead.

Obama referenced past leaders such as civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Abraham Lincoln, who he said used faith to guide their principles.

"I know in difficult times like these ... it can seem like a return to civility is impossible," he said. "But let us remember those who came before. Those who believed in the brotherhood of man even when their faith was tested."

Though the speeches at the event took a mostly serious tone, some moments of levity colored the event.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) approached the podium to give a prayer, but not before his cell phone ringer went off in front of the hot microphone.

Audience members laughed and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharJuan Williams: Warren on the rise Progressive group launches campaign to identify voters who switch to Warren 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown MORE (D-Minn.), co-chairwoman of the Senate Prayer Breakfast, joked, “It’s time for your prayer!”

The event, which is usually attended by senators, congressmen and international leaders, featured a number of marquee figures.

Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility Inslee unveils plan to fight fossil fuel pollution Biden lays out immigration priorities, rips Trump for 'assault on dignity' MORE, First Lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama leads USA dodgeball against Corden's Team UK Michelle Obama to lead female celebrity dodgeball team in 'Late Late Show' face-off Obamas sign deal with Spotify to produce podcasts MORE and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen were in attendance, as was embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R).

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero was in attendance and gave remarks in Spanish.

Zapatero’s appearance went off without a hitch despite the fact the European Union, of which he is currently president, had to call off an EU-U.S. summit because Obama would not attend.

Former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was also in attendance.

The Heisman Trophy winner stars in an anti-abortion television ad set to air during the Super Bowl, a spot that critics have deemed inappropriate for the game watched by nearly 100 million but that supporters say is in bounds.