Rick Perry has given a new explanation for his recent dalliance in Birtherism — the conspiracy theory that claims President Obama was born outside the United States, and is thus not legally eligible to be president at all. Perry now says he does not doubt at all that Obama is an American citizen — he was just having fun with Donald Trump.
In an interview with Adam C. Smith of the St. Petersburg Times, Smith asked Perry about his having expressed doubts about Obama’s birthplace, and what he would say to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has called on GOP candidates to categorically reject the notion.
“I don’t think I was expressing doubts,” a smiling Perry said. “I was just having some fun with Donald Trump.”
Perry recently met with Trump, who of course made a name for himself earlier this year by allegedly scouting out a run for president, and avidly pursuing the Birther cause that had previously lingered only on the fringes of media coverage.
Smith then asked Perry whether he was comfortable in saying that Obama is a U.S. citizen. “Oh yeah. It’s fun to — ya know, lighten up a little bit,” Perry said.
“I have no doubt about it,” he also added, answering a follow-up — before proceeding to continue his call for Obama to release his college transcripts.
“But here’s the more interesting thing. Let’s lay out our income taxes. Let’s lay our our college transcripts. Mine’s been on the front page of the paper. So if we’re going to lay out all these things, let’s lay them all out. So, whether it’s college transcripts or income tax, lay them all out. Let the people take a look at them.”
Regarding the full, original birth certificate that Obama released way back in April, in an effort to deflate the conspiracy theorists, Perry said: “I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night…He doesn’t think it’s real.” He also added: “I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.”
National Republicans were then put on the spot as a result, with RNC chairman Reince Priebus distancing the party from any such suggestions. “From the moment I walked into the RNC, I’ve said the issue is a distraction,” Priebus said. “I believe he was born in the United States and that’s about all I can say about that.”
In a follow-up interview with CNBC, Perry said: “I’m really not worried about the president’s birth certificate [but] it’s fun to poke at him a little bit and say ‘hey, how about let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.’”