Arizona official apologizes for Obama birth verification request

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has apologized for any embarrassment he caused his state when he revived a widely discredited conspiracy theory about President Obama’s birthplace by requesting verification that the president was born in Hawaii.

The apology came on the same day that Hawaii officials finally responded to Bennett’s request for “verification in lieu of” the birth certificate, which he said last week could be a precondition for placing Obama’s name on the Arizona ballot.

“If I embarrassed the state, I apologize, but that certainly wasn’t my intent,” Bennett said Tuesday in an interview with radio station KTAR.


Obama’s name will appear on the ballot “as long as he fills out the same paperwork and does the same things that everybody else has,” Bennett said.

Still, Bennett – who insists he is not a member of the “birther” movement that continues to promote the unsubstantiated claim that Obama was born in Kenya and is therefore ineligible to be president – defended himself for making the request.

“What is so sacred or untouchable about this question that you can’t even ask the question?” he said.

Bennett came under fire last week when it was reported that he had asked the state of Hawaii to verify the existence of Obama’s birth certificate, even though a certified copy of the document has been posted to the White House website for over a year.

Hawaii officials have been inundated with similar requests since Obama first became a presidential candidate, and emails obtained by Talking Points Memo suggest the state was less than eager to fulfill the request.

“My apologies for not responding immediately,” wrote Deputy Atty. Gen. Jill T. Nagamine in an email to Bennett earlier this month. “…We need more information to substantiate that you are eligible to receive verification.”

In submitting his request, Bennett cited a Hawaii law that allows officials from other states to request verification of the existence of a birth certificate. But as recently as Saturday, Nagamine was questioning Bennett’s authority to make the request.

“If I have missed something, please let me know,” Nagamine wrote. “My client stands willing to provide you with the verification you seek as soon as you are able to show that you are entitled to it.”

The matter appeared to have been resolved Tuesday night, when Joshua Wisch, special assistant to Hawaii Atty. Gen. David Louie, told the Associated Press that Bennett had given the state what it needed to fulfill the request.

Bennett, a Republican who is exploring a run for governor in 2014, is a co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has sent two men to Hawaii to confirm the existence of the birth certificate, according to the Arizona Republic and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Arpaio is leading an investigation into Obama’s birth certificate and has declared that the copy released by the White House is a fraud.

Brian Mackiewcz and Michael Zullo appeared at the Hawaii Department of Health on Monday, flashing Maricopa County Sheriff’s Offices badges, the Star-Advertiser reports. Mackiewcz produced a business card that said he is part of the Arizona sheriff’s “Threats Management Unit,” and a spokesman for the sheriff’s office told the Star-Advertiser that the men are “authorized by the Sheriff of Maricopa County, who is conducting an official investigation.”

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