The Republican leadership isn’t doing much to discourage members of their party who believe President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) became the latest GOP leader Sunday to refuse to denounce the birthers.
“This is a leadership moment here,” NBC’s David Gregory noted during an interview with Cantor. “There are elements of this country who question the president’s citizenship, who think that his birth certificate is inauthentic. Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?”
“David, I don’t think it’s nice to call anyone crazy, OK?” Cantor said as he chuckled. “I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all.”
“Why won’t you just call it what it is?” Gregory asked. “Because I feel like there are a lot of Republican leaders who don’t want to go as far as to criticize those who…”
“I think the president is a citizen of the United States,” Cantor interrupted. “Why is it you want me to engage in name calling?”
“Because I think a lot of people would say that a leader’s job is to shut some of this down. You know as well as I do there are elements on the right who believe two things about this president. He actively is trying to undermine the American way and wants to deny individuals their freedom.”
In early January, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) also demurred when he was asked why he wasn’t forcefully pushing back against birther claims.
“When you come to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us,” he told NBC’s Brian Williams. “We’re nothing more than a slice of America. People come, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. It’s the melting pot of America. It’s not up to me to tell them what to think.”
This video is from NBC’s Meet the Press, broadcast Jan. 23, 2011.