WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday released a longer version of his birth certificate to answer Republican charges he was not born in America, and blasted “carnival barkers” who refuse to let the issue die.
Obama took the unusual step of making a statement in the White House press briefing room to comment on the controversy, which has been raised most recently by real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who is considering a 2012 run for the Republican presidential nomination.
“We do not have time for this silliness,” Obama said in an easy-going appearance that turned serious when he addressed what he called a distraction from the real issues.
U.S. television networks broke into their regular programing for Obama’s statement, giving him valuable air time just as the 2012 campaign is beginning to stir.
“I can’t get the networks to break in on all kinds of other discussions,” the president said with a smile as he stepped onto the podium.
Obama in his two years in office has had to deal with charges that he does not meet the constitutional requirement that a president must be U.S. born, and separately, some have said he was a Muslim, when in fact he is a Christian.
The new document confirms what a shorter version released in 2008 has said, that Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961, the son of father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas.
Trump, speaking in New Hampshire, told reporters that he was “really happy” that Obama addressed the issue and is ready to debate other issues.
“I feel I’ve accomplished something really, really important and I’m honored by it,” Trump said in remarks shown live on CNN.
Some conspiracy theorists have tried to make the case that the “Certificate of Live Birth” released in the 2008 campaign was insufficient and that Obama was in fact born in Kenya, even though the short form issued by the Hawaiian state government was all that was necessary for official business like obtaining a driver’s license.
The longer version provides a little more information, such as that he was born at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu to father Barack Hussein Obama, a 25-year-old Kenyan, and 18-year-old mother, Ann Dunham Obama of Wichita, Kansas. It is dated August 8, 1961.
Obama said he recognized that this document still will not satisfy “a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest.”
Obama said he decided to address the issue now because in recent weeks during a budget debate with Republicans he saw that some news outlets were instead focused on the so-called birther issue.
He said he is confident U.S. politicians can reach agreement on serious disputes, “but 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 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,” he said.
The objective for Obama, who is seeking re-election in 2012, was to appear as the adult in American politics, eager to discuss real issues, and American voters may give him some credit for the move.
Obama’s appearance came as he is struggling with a variety of issues, most significantly, trying to bring down gasoline prices that in many areas have surged past $4 a gallon.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus tried to turn the tables on Obama, saying: “Unfortunately, his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority - our economy.”
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is raising money to run for the Republican nomination to challenge Obama, said on Twitter: “What President Obama should really be releasing is a jobs plan.”
Additional reporting by David Morgan and Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Jackie Frank