GOP Senate Candidate Flirts With Birtherism At Tea Party Event

Michigan Senate candidate and former Representative Pete Hoekstra (R) waded into birther territory several weeks ago, after he lamented that John McCain refused to force the issue in 2008. The Hill first flagged Hoekstra’s comments, which were made in early May but just disclosed via a video uploaded on Tuesday.

“I think with this president, the book is closed,” said Hoekstra in response to an attendee at the Michigan Tea Party event, before clarifying that the issue was only off the table because Republicans missed their opportunity to expose President Obama:

“We lost that debate in 2008 when our presidential nominee said ‘I ain’t talking about it’… I’d love to give you the answer and say that I’m going to fight it, we’re going to beat it and we’re going to win it. I think it wasn’t fought and we lost it.”

Hoekstra instead proposed a new three-person panel made up of intelligence officials from the CIA and FBI to investigate future presidential nominees and verify they are constitutionally eligible to hold the office. Watch it, courtesy of YouTube user JimCMacomb:

A spokesman for Hoekstra’s campaign later told The Hill that the candidate does in fact believe Obama is a U.S. citizen. But this isn’t the first time he has used fear of “foreigners” to rally conservative voters. A xenophobic ad aired during the 2012 Super Bowl in February depicting a Chinese worker mockingly thanking Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) led to widespread, bipartisan condemnation and an eventual apology from the candidate.