As ThinkProgress first reported last week, Stearns — a top GOP lawmaker who has taken the lead in investigating Planned Parenthood and Solyndra — told a town hall meeting in February that it’s a “legitimate…question” whether President Obama was born in the United States. When pressed by reporters yesterday, Stearns confirmed his doubts, pointing to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s birther investigation that declared Obama’s birth certificate to be a “forgery and fraud.”
Amidst concerns about Stearns’ suitability as a top congressional investigator, Cantor stepped in today to assure reporters that Stearns “has my full confidence”:
“I think Cliff Stearns does a good job with the chairmanship of his subcommittee,” Cantor told The Hill in the Capitol Wednesday. “He has my full confidence.”
Cantor was responding to a question about whether it’s appropriate to have someone who has questioned Obama’s birth certificate leading a probe of the White House.
The GOP leader, in the very brief interview, made clear that he’s not among the people that question the president’s citizenship. “Let’s just get it straight … I believe the president is an American citizen, so that question I can dispense with,” Cantor said.
Though not a birther himself, Cantor is developing a reputation as a birther-apologist. Last year, he refused to criticize those who do not believe the president is an American citizen, telling NBC host David Gregory, “I don’t think it’s nice to call anyone crazy, OK?”
Cantor may be unwilling to candidly and correctly criticize members of his party who advance absurd conspiracy theories, but some congressmen underneath him are more frank. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), who serves with Stearns on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, criticized his colleague to Politico. “You really put me on a box on this one,” Terry said when asked about it. “Let’s just say I disagree with his position and that is somewhat distracting from the issues we’re trying to work on in this committee.”