Mitt Romney made clear this week he won’t cut ties with Donald Trump, who is hosting a fundraiser for the candidate in Las Vegas on Tuesday, despite the real estate mogul’s claims the president was born in Kenya. Trump returned the favor by launching into yet another screeching birther diatribe on CNBC the morning of the event.
“I never really changed — nothing’s changed my mind,” Trump told CNBC, reassuring that his birtherism is as rock solid as it was last year when he briefly led Republican primary polling. “And by the way, you know, you have a huge group of people. I walk down the street and people are screaming, ‘Please don’t give that up.’ Look, a publisher came out last week and had a statement about Obama given to them by Obama when he was doing a book as a young man a number of years ago in the ’90s: ‘Born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia.’”
Trump was referring to promotional material for Obama’s memoirs from 1991 that erroneously described him as Kenyan-born, which the publisher has said was a typo. Obama has produced both his short- and long-form birth certificate and the state of Hawaii as recently as this week reconfirmed that he was born in the state, but Trump says the erroneous promo is the one to believe.
“That’s not the way life works,” Trump said of the correction. “He’s a young man doing a book and he said what he believed to be the truth.”
While Romney and his aides have insisted that the candidate believes Obama was born in the United States and that the issue is a sideshow, Trump made clear that it remains paramount in his mind.
“I’ve been known as being a very smart guy for a long time,” he said. “I don’t consider myself birther or not birther, but there are some major questions here that the press doesn’t want to cover. Now, if that were somebody else they’d be covering it and they’d be throwing people out of office, but they don’t want to cover it.”
Romney told reporters on Monday that he has no regrets about his close association with Trump.
“You know, I don’t agree with all the people who support me, and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” Romney said, according to CNN. “But I need to get 50.1 percent or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”
Sensing an opening, the Obama campaign released a video Tuesday morning portraying Romney as weak in his refusal to repudiate Trump’s conspiracy mongering, contrasting him with John McCain, who at times publicly rebuked supporters at rallies who attacked Obama in similar terms.
Birtherism, thought to be diminished by the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate last year, has been back with a vengeance in recent weeks. Romney’s own campaign co-chair in Arizona, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, caused a stir by threatening to keep Obama off the ballot unless he could find proof of Obama’s place of birth. Bennett ultimately backed down and apologized.
In Colorado, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) said at a fundraiser that he was unsure of Obama’s place of birth, but that he was “not an American” in his heart. He quickly apologized as well.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.