Secretary of State Ken Bennett has waded into the controversy over the president’s birthplace again.
But not in the way some have charged.
“I actually think he was born in Hawaii,” Bennett told a group of Republicans last week, explaining his efforts to verify that state does, in fact, have a birth certificate on file for Obama. Bennett said he felt that his role as the state’s chief elections officer entitled him to make such a query.
But Bennett said that does not mean the public is getting the whole story.
“I actually think he was fibbing about being born in Kenya when he was trying to get into college and doing things like writing a book, and on and on,” Bennett told his audience. “So if there was weird stuff going on, I actually think it was happening back in his college days.”
The comments came as Bennett was trying to round up support for Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney. Bennett chairs Romney’s Arizona campaign efforts.
Asked about the comments, which were videotaped by an audience member, Bennett said he was only speculating. And he said his remarks indicate that, noting that he used the word “if” a couple of times when talking about the “fibbing” and why he believes the president when he says now he was born in Hawaii.
“If there was weird stuff going on, I actually think it was happening back in his college days,” Bennett told his audience. But he did not include such conditional speculation on everything he said.
“I think he has spent $1.5 or $2 million through attorneys to have all the college records and all that stuff sealed,” Bennett continued. “So if you’re spending money to seal something, that’s probably where the hanky-panky was going on.”
“But I have no knowledge,” Bennett said later to Capitol Media Services.
“I don’t believe that,” he said. “I tried to phrase is as an ‘if.’ “
That, however, still leaves the flat-out statement about the money Obama has spent to have his records sealed.
“That’s part of the speculation that I hear,” Bennett said. Pressed for how he came up with those specific numbers, he responded, “I don’t know where I heard that.”
The closest thing to Bennett’s comments stem from an effort by a literary agent for Obama in 1991 to promote the Harvard law school graduate as a writer, listing him as “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.” An assistant who worked at the agency at the time has since called it “a fact-checking error by me.”
Some web sites also say that Kenyan birth was mentioned in promoting the book Obama did write later, “Dreams from My Father.”
Bennett, speaking without notes, wandered into the whole issue of Obama’s birthplace during his talk when he said voters should “send him back home, wherever home is.”
He previously found himself in the center of a controversy earlier this year when, responding to what he said were “thousands of e-mails and calls” after claims by a volunteer posse member from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department” that there was reason to believe the copy of the birth certificate the White House had posted on its web site was not genuine.
His request resulted in some criticism, largely from Democrats, who questioned how he could be Romney’s campaign chairman and yet seeking out birth records of his candidate’s November foe. And Bennett conceded there is no specific statutory authority for him to verify candidate birth records, just a general requirement for him to safeguard “the integrity of the ballot.”
But Bennett did himself no favors with those who are convinced that Obama really was born in Kenya or elsewhere, as they blasted him for failing to demand to see the president’s actual birth certificate and instead agreed to take the word of Hawaii authorities.
Bennett told his GOP audience that they should get beyond the whole question.
“We are not going to win this election based on whether he was born in Hawaii or not,” he said. “We are going to win this election because our country has to change directions or we are quickly headed to a point where we will not be able to recover.”