Boehner, Like Cantor, Refuses To Repudiate Birther Conspiracy Theories

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"Boehner, Like Cantor, Refuses To Repudiate Birther Conspiracy Theories"

Three weeks ago, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) — the second-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives — repeatedly refused to call theories that President Obama was not born in America “crazy.” He told Meet the Press’s David Gregory that “I don’t think it’s nice to call anyone crazy,” and refused to rebuke the wild conspiracy theories.

Today on the same program, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) also refused to repudiate such theories under a similar line of questioning from Gregory, who showed Boehner a Fox News clip in which several Iowa Republicans in a focus group said they believed Obama was a Muslim. Though Boehner was immediately willing to say he “believes” Obama is an American-born Christian, and that he takes the president “at his word,” Boehner would not repudiate those who think otherwise. Three separate times, Boehner told Gregory that “it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think”:

GREGORY: Do you not think it’s your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?

BOEHNER: David, it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That’s good enough for me. The president says he’s a Christian. I accept him at his word.

GREGORY: But isn’t that a little bit fast and loose? I mean, you are the leader in Congress and you are not standing up to obvious facts and saying these are facts, and if you don’t believe that it’s nonsense?

BOEHNER: I just outlined the facts as I understand them. I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian, I’ll take him at his word.

GREGORY: But that kind of ignorance over whether he’s a Muslim doesn’t concern you?

BOEHNER: Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can’t — it’s not my job to tell them.

Watch it:

Gregory directly accused Boehner of hedging because “it weakens the president politically, it seeks to de-legitimize him,” to which Boehner reacted with visible indignation. But it’s hard to imagine Gregory isn’t correct. Boehner and his fellow Republicans — like all politicians — always try to persuade Americans, and “tell them what to think” on a wide range of issues. Just minutes earlier, Boehner was warning against a deficit crisis he said is caused by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and told Gregory: “I think it’s incumbent on the leaders in Washington, those of us to go out and help the American people understand how big the problem is.”

Gregory pointed out that Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) made a birth certificate crack at CPAC this week, and Boehner brushed it off as a joke. Gregory might have mentioned that birther theories are not a joke to many members of Boehner’s caucus: a tally kept at World Net Daily claims that the following members of Cantor’s caucus doubt the president’s citizenship: Reps. Bill Posey (R-FL), Dan Burton (R-IN), Ted Poe (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Campbell (R-CA), John R. Carter (R-TX), John Culberson (R-TX), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Kenny Marchant (R-TX). Still, Boehner and Cantor stubbornly refuse to repudiate fellow Republicans that believe a provably false theory.

Full transcript after the jump:

GREGORY: Do you not think it’s your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?

BOEHNER: David, it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That’s good enough for me. The president says he’s a Christian. I accept him at his word.

GREGORY: But isn’t that a little bit fast and loose? I mean, you are the leader in Congress and you are not standing up to obvious facts and saying these are facts, and if you don’t believe that it’s nonsense?

BOEHNER: I just outlined the facts as I understand them. I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian, I’ll take him at his word.

GREGORY: But that kind of ignorance over whether he’s a Muslim doesn’t concern you?

BOEHNER: Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can’t — it’s not my job to tell them.

GREGORY: Why isn’t it your job to stand up and say, no, the facts are these? Didn’t John McCain do that in –

BOEHNER: I just —

GREGORY: When you’re saying ‘it’s good enough for me,’ are you really standing up and saying, for those that believe that, or who would talk about that — you had a member of Congress, you had a new Tea Party freshman, who was out just yesterday speaking to conservatives and he said, ‘I’m fortunate enough to be an American citizen by birth and I do have a birth certificate to prove it. That was Raul Labrador, a new Congressman from Idaho. Is that an appropriate way for your members to speak?

BOEHNER: The gentleman was trying to be funny, I would imagine, but remember something – it really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe and what do think. There’s a lot of information out there, people read a lot of things, but I —

GREGORY: You shouldn’t stand up to misinformation or stereotypes?

BOEHNER: I’ve made clear what I believe the facts are.

GREGORY: But is it because it weakens the president politically, it seeks to de-legitimize him, that you sort of want to let it stay out there?

BOEHNER: No! What I’m trying to do is to do my job. Our job is to focus on spending.

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