Priebus: Criticism over Mitt Romney’s ‘birther’ joke is ‘ridiculous’

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Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday described the controversy over Mitt Romney’s “birther” joke as “ridiculous.”

“I think it’s a nothing,” Priebus told Candy Crowley on CNN’s Face the Nation. “The fact is that Mitt Romney - myself, from the moment that I became chairman - consistently Gov. Romney has said that this is a non-starter, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.”

At a campaign event in Michigan on Friday, Romney made a joke referencing the conspiracy theories surrounding the president’s birth certificate.


“Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital," the presumptive GOP nominee said at a campaign rally in Michigan.

"No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised," he added.

The Obama campaign seized on the remarks, releasing a web video on Saturday saying “America doesn’t need a birther-in-chief.”

“Holding out hope Romney had a vision for the middle class?,” The narrator says in the short web video. “Think again. Embracing unfounded conspiracy theories, distracting from real issues. America doesn’t need a birther-in-chief.”

Priebus said the comment was meant as a reminder to voters in Michigan of Romney’s ties to the critical swing-state.

“He’s a Michigander, we’re ahead in Michigan, we’re doing well in these battleground states, he was making the point that I’m from Michigan, I was born here,” Priebus said.

Romney said in an interview Friday that he did not intend his recent comment as a swipe against the president.

“No, no, not a swipe,” Romney told CBS News. “I've said throughout the campaign and before, there's no question about where he was born. He was born in the U.S. This was fun about us, and coming home. And humor, you know — we've got to have a little humor in a campaign.”

And while the president has himself joked about the conspiracy theory, Obama press secretary Ben LaBolt says it’s not a joke coming from the Romney campaign.

“Governor Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America,” LaBolt said Friday, before alleging that Romney has “embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them.”

Priebus accused those who might be offended by the remark of being too thin-skinned.

“Has it really gotten to the point that we can’t have any levity at all?,” he asked. “It’s gotten to a point that’s ridiculous. Nobody can say anything that’s remotely humorous. The president makes jokes about this all the time, he did this at the correspondent’s dinner a year ago.”