Obama takes shot at birthers in speech to prayer breakfast

During an address Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden inaugural committee raised M with big sums from billionaires, corporations To confront corporate power, President Biden needs Jonathan Kanter Minneapolis mayor on Floyd: 'Ultimately his life will have bettered our city' 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 HatchPress: Forget bipartisanship — it's dead! Privatization of foster care has been a disaster for children Remembering Ted Kennedy highlights decline of the Senate 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 KlobucharTech companies duke it out at Senate hearing Big Tech set to defend app stores in antitrust hearing Jimmy Carter remembers Mondale as 'best vice president in our country's history' 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 Biden, First Lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMinneapolis mayor on Floyd: 'Ultimately his life will have bettered our city' Obamas praise Floyd jury, urge more action: 'We cannot rest' Bush says he doesn't criticize other presidents to avoid risking friendship with Michelle Obama 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.