Rick Perry Flirting With Birthers?

Rick Perry’s comments during an interview with Parade Magazine have raised some questions about where he stands on the issue of the President’s birth certificate:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he is not sure President Obama was born in the United States, but it should not matter because he was elected president and the issue is a distraction.

Perry was asked if he is convinced Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii, as his birth certificate released earlier this year says.

“I have no reason to think otherwise,” Perry said in an interview with Parade Magazine published Sunday.

The interviewer pointed out that is not a definitive yes, and Perry said he can not know for certain.

“I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate,” Perry said, without explaining why he referenced his own birth certificate when he was asked about Mr. Obama’s.

Parade writer Lynn Sherr asked “but you’ve seen his?”

“I don’t know, have I?” Perry responded.

Perry then mentioned his recent dinner with Donald Trump and said the reality TV host told him he still does not think Obama’s birth certificate is authentic.

Asked what he told Trump in response, Perry said “I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the president of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.”

For clarification’s sake, here’s the full interview:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the president of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

If anything, I tend to thing that this is more an example of a Perry’s own muddled thinking than any dog whistle to the birther fringe. However, Perry has nonetheless managed to create the impression that he’s trying to appeal to the crazies, mostly because he failed to answer the question clearly and, for some bizarre reason, met with Donald Trump. In any event we can now expect a birth certificate question at the next debate thanks to Perry since this is, obviously, the most important issue facing the Republic.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Politicians, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    I hope all of the candidates get asked about Obama’s birth certificate.

    It’s a bit more respectful to the candidate than “Are you batsh.t insane?” and more likely to get an answer that demonstrates that they actually are batsh.t insane. It really is a great issue to question them on.

  2. Jay Tea says:

    @Gustopher: That sounds fun. How about some of us come up with similar irrelevant gotcha questions for Obama?

    “At what point in your 20-year attendance at Reverend Wright’s church did you realize that he was a race-baiting conspiracy nut?”

    “Why did you lie about your parents’ marriage being ‘made possible’ by the civil rights marches in Selma and Birmingham, when they were married and divorced long before those marches took place?”

    “Why did you say your mother was denied insurance coverage for her uterine cancer, when she actually was fully covered?”

    “You said that your administration has always made the right decisions. In light of the results of Cash For Clunkers and your admission that there were no ‘shovel-ready projects’ for the stimulus, would you care to reconsider your answer?”

    Gosh, I could go on and on…


  3. Jay Tea says:

    Here’s my recommended answer:

    “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a non-issue. There is plenty of evidence that he was born in Hawaii, so I don’t care. From the outset it’s been played to President Obama’s political advantage, and I’d urge all Americans — Democrats and Republicans and Independents — to declare it a non-issue and simply refuse to get caught up in the discussion, so we can focus on real issues.”


  4. alanstorm says:

    Gotta watch out for those “bithers”, whoever they are… 😉

  5. @alanstorm:

    Yes, among other things they create typos

  6. legion says:

    @Jay Tea: Jay, that’s actually a rational, decent answer to the question. You will not hear _any_ of the GOP contenders answer in that fashion – they will _all_ eventually give lip service to the nutjobs that still think Obama’s a Seekrit Kenyan Mooslim. That’s what makes it newsworthy – all of the GOP’s candidates are either spineless twits who can;t be trusted to tell you what color the sky is until their check comes in, or (if they actually believe this BS) completely insane a la Orly Taitz. Your dislike of Obama doesn’t affect that at all.

  7. alanstorm says:

    They cause punctuation errors, too!

    Those nasty bithers. Won’t somebody do something?

  8. mantis says:

    I hope all of the candidates get asked about Obama’s birth certificate.

    I don’t. Let the damned thing die already. None of the remaining GOP contenders have tried to make an issue out of it lately, and it has largely been relegated to the territory of fringe lunatics until this interview.

    For that matter, it would be nice if political reporters could ignore Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and any other ridiculous sideshows when reporting on the primary and election. Pretend this is a nation of adults with important things to discuss, and maybe we’ll eventually become one.

    I know it’s cliche, but there are more important things to talk about. Like Jeremiah Wright (just ask Jay).

  9. Tlaloc says:

    I can’t read this as making Perry a birther. I think he’s trying to not offend birthers, but that’s not the same thing. I don’t think it’s incumbent on GOP candidates to continually repudiate the birthers so long as they don’t help them spread their message.

  10. John Peabody says:

    I don’t know if the constitution was authentic, I wasn’t there when they signed it. For that matter, I’m not too sure about the surrender documents signed aboard the USS Missouri, either. And, face it, I didn’t see anyone land on the moon. Oh, sure, it was on TV, but, you know, 1969 CGI and all. Hey, my kids weren’t even born when Buzz Collins stepped on to the moon and said “That’s one heck of a suit there, Barney!”…how do you expect them to believe it??!! Dammit, wheres the Reynolds wrap? My hat is falling apart again!

  11. Murray says:

    Since you had dinner with The Donald Rick, you should know what the birther nonsense did to his candidacy.

    Next time you have dinner with him, ask him to release the long form of the incredible stuff his investigators found in Hawaii.

  12. @Tlaloc:

    A man who lacks the courage to plainly say the obvious truth because it might cost him some votes has no business being elected dog catcher, much less President.

  13. Kylopod says:

    >I can’t read this as making Perry a birther. I think he’s trying to not offend birthers, but that’s not the same thing

    When it comes to crackpots, the difference isn’t so clear-cut. Conspiracy theorists are always claiming agnosticism on the issue–one of the most frequent things they say is that they’re “just asking questions.” Sometimes it seems there are no Holocaust deniers or 9/11 truthers or moon-hoaxers, merely people “just asking questions” about the official account. You see that sort of slippery phrasing all the time from enthusiasts for these theories.

    On the WND website, for example, Jerome Corsi describes Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because he didn’t consider Obama constitutionally eligible to be president, as having been “court-martialed and sent to prison for having dared ask questions” about the matter. Joseph Farah writes, “I guess we could just say, ‘Hey, we don’t want to create a constitutional crisis – let’s stop digging, let’s stop asking questions.’ But that’s not me…. I love the Constitution. And I love truth.” That’s the way birthers talk, and it’s the way all conspiracy theorists talk.

    Now I’m not saying Perry necessarily believes what he’s saying–that’s not the point. He’s a politician, and he panders. That isn’t news. But what he’s expressing is most definitely in the domain of birtherism. Once you imply there’s room for doubt on an issue like this, you’ve effectively conceded the conspiracy theorist’s premise. From 2008 to today, before or after the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate, it has been obvious to anyone with a modicum of rationality that the birther theories have no merit. Republican candidates like Perry would sooner swallow arsenic, it seems, than suggest the deficit problem in this country can be fixed by raising a cent of tax revenue, but when it comes to Obama’s birthplace, they “don’t have a definitive answer.” The descent of America into socialism over the past three years is nothing more than a simple fact, but Obama’s Hawaiian origin? “I don’t have any idea.”

  14. sam says:


    I can’t read this as making Perry a birther. I think he’s trying to not offend birthers

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my take, too. Something along the lines of, “Hey, nutcakes, I believe you’re the salt of the earth even if you are batshιt crazy. But gosh there’s a lot you out there–well, enough for me to stroke your Obamaisakenyanmooslimmarkxistdemon erogenous zones — so, Vote for me. I’m one of you, kinda, sorta, in-the-primaries, and don’t get upset if I deny it later (you know how thelamestream media is). After you vote for me.”

  15. The issue for me is not whether Perry doubts that Obama was born in the United States, it is that he didn’t have the sense to stay away from the issue. You would never see a polished politician like Mitt Romney fall into that trap.