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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 on Supreme Court ruling: 'The Affordable Care Act is here to stay' Appeals court affirms North Carolina's 20-week abortion ban is unconstitutional GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' 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 FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump 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 TrumpChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report Kim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US Ex-Colorado GOP chair accused of stealing more than 0K from pro-Trump PAC 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.