Obama Releases Birth Certificate

President Obama Wednesday released a long-form version of his Hawaiian birth certificate. Questions about the place of his birth have long been the subject of conspiracy theories — even though the answer has long been established in Honolulu. Obama said he hoped his six-minute statement would put the matter to rest, but on Wednesday, the statement put the issue front and center.

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President Obama offered new proof today that he is in fact a natural-born citizen of the United States. That's now exactly news. What is news is that the White House went so far as to obtain a long-form copy of the president's Hawaiian birth certificate and then posted it on its website.

As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, the move comes after Donald Trump revived questions about the president's place of birth and his eligibility to serve as president.

SCOTT HORSLEY: The TV lights were turned up bright in the White House briefing room this morning. Correspondents from all the major networks went live with the news that President Obama would soon be making a statement - not about the economy or the choice of a new defense security, but about his birth certificate. Mr. Obama could only smile when he walked into the room.

BARACK OBAMA: Let me just comment, first of all, on the fact that I can't get the networks to break in on all kinds of other discussions.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HORSLEY: Just an hour earlier, the White House had surprised reporters by passing out copies of the long-form certificate signed by Obama's late mother and an attending doctor, showing he was, in fact, born in Hawaii. Of course, we already knew that - most of us anyway. The Obama team had published short-form version of the birth certificate during the primary campaign and there's ample documentation, including contemporary news clippings, to show that Barack Obama is a natural-born American.

OBAMA: 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 4th, 1961 in Kapi'olani Hospital.

HORSLEY: The last few years, the Obama team has generally ignored the birther charges, treating the issue as settled, even though polls often showed a sizeable percentage of Republicans had doubts about the president's birthplace, fueled by the occasional comment from politicians like Mike Huckabee.

But aides say in recent weeks, the issue drifted from the fringes of the Internet to the country's political mainstream, with Donald Trump leading the charge. In response, the president obtained a waiver from the Hawaiian government to release the long-form version of his birth certificate. The original is kept in a bound volume at the state's health department.

The president's lawyer flew to Honolulu and returned yesterday with two certified copies. Mr. Obama said he was worried the ongoing focus on his birthplace was becoming a distraction, making it harder for the country's leaders to tackle real problems like unemployment with a budget deficit.

OBAMA: 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.

HORSLEY: The president did not mention Donald Trump by name. Meanwhile, the developer, TV star and possible Republican presidential hopeful was on live television himself this morning telling reporters in New Hampshire he's proud to have played such a big role in getting the birth record released.

DONALD TRUMP: Now, we have to look at it. We have to see, is it real? Is it proper? What's on it? But I hope it checks out beautifully. I am really proud. I am really honored.

HORSLEY: Like the president, Trump said he hopes the country will now focus on more important subjects before adding he has serious questions about Mr. Obama's college grades.

The president acknowledged some skeptics will never believe he was born in this country, no matter how much proof he provides. But he hopes today's release will satisfy the vast majority of the American people. We do not have time for this kind of silliness, he said. We've got better stuff to do.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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