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On birth certificate, Obama derides 'carnival barkers'


President Obama addresses the press and discusses the release of a longer-form birth certificate that reaffirms he was born in Hawaii.

From NBC's Athena Jones
President Obama spoke to the press this morning after the White House released his birth certificate for a second time.

The papers -- handed out during an off-camera "gaggle" in the briefing room early today -- were described by Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer as "the president's long-form birth certificate" and the correspondence between the president's lawyer and the Hawaii State Department of Health that led to the release of the documents.

The so-called birther issue has dogged Obama since the presidential campaign and Donald Trump, a potential Republican candidate for president, has repeatedly questioned the president's place of birth in recent days.

During the morning briefing, which was also attended by White House Counsel Bob Bauer, Pfeiffer told the press that the campaign requested the birth certificate from the state of Hawaii in 2008 and posted it on the campaign web site once they received it. He said independent fact checkers had inspected the document at his campaign headquarters and "declared that it was proof positive that he was born in Hawaii."

Noting that the networks were breaking in to cover his statement, Obama said he could not get this kind of coverage for "all kinds of other discussions" like national security and went on the blast the press for focusing on an issue he believes is a distraction. Still, today's remarks were notable because they marked the first time the president has addressed the issue of his place of birth in such an extensive, public and high-profile way, despite sometimes making jokes about what his administration has treated as a fake controversy.

The president said he had "watched with bemusement" and been "puzzled" by the degree to which the issue of his place of birth has continued to make headlines, particularly earlier this month when the Republican House put forward its budget and he gave a speech about his own budget priorities.

While saying he would not normally address such an issue, he said he wanted "to make a larger point" in speaking today and to encourage the media and the American people to focus on these and other issues, like the budget debate ahead.

"I'm confident the American people and America's political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve these problems," he said, before going on the warn, "We're not gonna be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers."

He said, "We live in a serious time" right now and it's possible to deal with the issues in a way that will make our children and grandchildren proud.

Obama acknowledged this latest release of documents would not please everyone.

"I know that there's gonna be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not  be put to rest, but I'm speaking to the vast majority of the American people as well as to the press," he said. "We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We've got better stuff to do."

Pfeiffer said the birth certificate handed out to the press today was the same document that every Hawaiian receives when they contact the state to request their birth certificate and the same one they take to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get their driver's license and that they take to the federal government to get their passport. "It is a legally recognized document."