Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) has positioned himself as the leader of a state-based movement on the right to invalidate key progressive reforms. Announcing a lawsuit to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions, Cuccinelli recently filed a petition claiming that global warming is “unverifiable and doctored” science. Cuccinelli has also promised to use the state’s recently passed “state sovereignty” law — crafted with the help of health insurance lobbyists and a right-wing front group Cuccinelli claimed membership to while in the legislature — to file a lawsuit against implementing health reform in Virginia.
Now, according to audio uncovered by blogger Not Larry Sabato, Cuccinelli is floating his support for yet another fringe conservative idea: the “birther” movement. In an audio clip allegedly recorded during the transition period after his election last year, Cuccinelli is asked how he could legally challenge President Obama’s citizenship. Cuccinelli lays out the legal framework, then adds that such a suit could occur because the “speculation” that Obama is from Kenya “doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility”:
Q: What can we do about Obama and the birth certificate thing? Because that’s —
CUCCINELLI: It will get tested in my view when someone, when he signs a law, and someone is convicted of violating it and one of their defenses will be it is not a law because someone qualified to be President didn’t sign it.
Q: Is that something you can do as Attorney General? Can you do that or something?
CUCCINELLI: Well only if there is a conflict where we are suing the federal government for a law they’ve passed. So it’s possible. […] Well, that’s a good question. Not one I’ve thought a lot about because it hasn’t been part of my campaign. Someone is going to have to come forward with nailed down testimony that he was born in place B, wherever that is. You know, the speculation is Kenya. And that doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility.
Cuccinelli’s encouraging words for the paranoid birther movement isn’t the first time he has indulged in right-wing conspiracy theories. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch blog reports on a video from 2009, when Cuccinelli told a crowd that he was considering not registering his son for Social Security because the registration number “is being used to track you.” He also claimed that many others are not registering for Social Security numbers for the same reason.
While Cuccinelli continues his far right quest of tearing down health reform, clean energy reform, and even the President’s legitimacy, Virginia is struggling. Residents are facing skyrocketing health insurance premiums, with new rate hikes from Blue Cross Blue Shield expected in April. Clean energy reform would help reverse Virginia’s current rate of unemployment — currently 6.9% — by adding nearly 45,000 jobs and unleashing $3.9 billion in investments.
Cuccinelli released a statement this afternoon walking back his birther comments: “I absolutely believe that President Obama was born in the United States. I don’t buy into the claims that he wasn’t. On the recording, I was asked a hypothetical legal question, and I gave a hypothetical legal answer in response.”