Updated 12:48 p.m. — COMMERCE, MI — Mitt Romney cracked a joke about his own birth certificate while campaigning Friday here in his native Michigan, instantly and perhaps inadvertently inserting himself into one of the most divisive controversies in the Obama presidency.
In a riff on Friday about being back in the state where he was born and raised, presumptive GOP presidential nominee made a joke alluding to the "birther" controversies that have dogged President Obama.
Expanding on his Michigander bonafides, he pointed out that he was born in nearby Harper hospital, adding:
Mitt Romney cracked a joke about his own birth certificate, while campaigning in front of a home-state crowd in Michigan, saying "No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate, they know that this is the place that we were born and raised."
"No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate," Romney said. "They know that this is the place that we were born and raised."
Romney did not mention President Obama or controversy over his place of birth, but many in the crowd of thousands here laughed knowingly at the line.
A Romney spokesman sought to soften the remark, telling reporters: "Governor Romney was just illustrating that he was born and raised here in Michigan."
The comment drew immediate attention for invoking conspiracy theories about the president's place of birth, voiced by some conservative quarters of the GOP. These theories have been vocally espoused by Donald Trump, the reality TV star and real estate mogul who's been an active ally of Romney's this cycle.
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An Obama spokesman, Ben LaBolt, shot back: "Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them. It’s one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”
Trump had kept the so-called "birther" controversy alive long after it had been debunked, calling for President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate last spring to prove that he was a natural born American citizen. Romney's campaign has kept its distance from Trump's remarks, with Romney repeatedly saying he believes the president was born in the United States, and that he did not agree with Trump's comments.
(Obama has released his birth certificate, which shows he was born in Hawaii.)
The comment nonetheless was reflective of the personal nastiness that has seeped into the Obama-Romney campaign.
Evan Vucci / AP
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann arrive at the Oakland County International Airport Aug. 24 in Waterford, Mich.
The president, for instance, made a similar endeavor onto this turf when he joked about Romney putting a his dog on the roof of his car in the 1980s.
"During a speech a few months ago, Gov. Romney even described his energy policy this way, I’m quoting here, ‘You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,'" Obama said earlier this month in Iowa during a trip to promote wind energy.
"Now I don’t know if he’s actually tried that — I know he’s had other things on his car," Obama added in a joke he'd end up repeating several times that day.