Obama Answers Birthers By Showing His Certificate

President Obama released his long-form birth certificate Wednesday in an effort to quiet GOP accusations that he was not born in the United States. Steve Inskeep talks to NPR's Scott Horsley at the White House.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

This just in: President Obama was born in Hawaii. That's according to the birth certificate the White House released today. NPR's Scott Horsley is at the White House and joins us now. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I supposed one question that will occur to people is what took so long, because people have been demanding to see this document for years.

HORSLEY: Well, yes. And the debate has kind of waxed and waned. This came up originally during the presidential campaign. Back then the Obama team posted a short-form of the president's birth certificate online, and as far as they were concerned, and in fact as far as many people were concerned, that settled it. He was born in Hawaii. He was eligible to be president.

But in recent weeks the controversy has taken on new life. So the White House went to the extent of getting a waiver to have the long-form of his birth certificate, which is kept in a bound volume in Hawaii, released. And this morning the president went on live TV to say, yes, I was born in Honolulu.

President BARACK OBAMA: I have to say that over the last two and a half years I have watched with bemusement, I've been puzzled, at the degree to which this thing just kept on going.�We've had every official in Hawaii, Democrat and Republican, every news outlet that has investigated this, confirm that, yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Hospital.

INSKEEP: Even before he released the certificate, there was plenty of evidence. There was even a contemporary newspaper birth announcement from 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The evidence was overwhelming. But what sort of a political problem was this for the president, especially in recent days?

HORSLEY: Well, actually, the White House argues that this may have been to the president's political advantage to let this debate continue. Because it was really making the Republicans look a little bit silly. All the Republicans were being asked out there on the stump, what do you think about this birther story? And they either had to deny the overwhelming evidence, as you say, or jump on the bandwagon to raise the questions.

INSKEEP: And Donald Trump was happily steering that bandwagon in recent days.

HORSLEY: Absolutely. But the White House says they didn't want to seize that potential political advantage because this was becoming a distraction from some of the many tough, tough issues that really confronted the country: the high jobless rate, the high gas prices, the big debate over what to do about our budget deficit. The president says he wants to have those debates, and this birther controversy was not helping.

President OBAMA: We're not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We're not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We're not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.

INSKEEP: With that said, the reason that a president normally wouldn't address a controversy like this is as soon as he does, it just gives the story huge oxygen, doesn't it?

HORSLEY: Well, they had sort of tried starving the story and that, obviously, wasn't working. So they had to take the other avenue.

INSKEEP: Now, we mentioned Donald Trump before, who had been speaking again and again and again about the president's birth and had been claiming to send investigators to Hawaii and so forth. He has a reaction this morning. Let's listen, Scott Horsley.

Mr. DONALD TRUMP (CEO and Chairman, The Trump Organization): I'm very proud of myself, because I've accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish.

INSKEEP: Meaning, he says, that the president finally released a birth certificate. Did Trump accomplish anything politically?

HORSLEY: Well, I think what he's succeeded in doing is what he's been successful at doing throughout his career, which is taking the spotlight off of a lot of other issues and putting it where he likes it, on himself.

There are a number of polls showing Donald Trump near the top in GOP polls. Now though, he's probably going to have to find something else to talk about.

INSKEEP: Well, does this end the controversy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

HORSLEY: It's hard to say if anything will. The president acknowledged that some people will never be satisfied no matter how much proof he puts up. But he said that he's speaking to the majority of Americans. And for them, I think this should settle it.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks very much.

HORSLEY: It's good to be with you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR Scott Horsley, speaking with us on this morning, that President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, showing he was born in Hawaii.

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