Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gave an interview to US News & World Report in which he appeared to push back against Donald Trump and the so-called "birthers" -- then later said the report describing his remarks was "inaccurate."


Priebus was paraphrased as telling the conspiracy theorists who believe President Barack Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen to "shut up" and calling the issue a distraction. "I think that the entire issue gets me off track to what I really need to focus on which is how to beat him," the new GOP chief who took the reins from Michael Steele in January was quoted as saying.

The interview was published and tweeted Wednesday evening, and a few hours later, Priebus responded on Twitter saying, "This isn't accurate ... I never said this."

Priebus didn't respond to a request to clarify whether he was quoted inaccurately or whether his remarks were simply over-interpreted by US News & World Report as a denunciation of birtherism. It's conceivable that he intended to remain neutral on the issue while saying he wasn't a birther himself.

"I'm not," he told the magazine. "I believe that the president was born in Hawaii."

That Priebus felt the need to back away from what US News & World Report depicted as nothing more than a clear repudiation of the birthers is a testament to the influence that the fervent conspiracy theorists have in mainstream Republican circles.

A survey by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling found in February that 51 percent of GOP primary voters believe Obama was not born in the United States, despite the fact that his birth certificate has been released and validated by a litany of sources.

Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul, has fully embraced the conspiracy theory as he claims to be mulling the presidency in 2012, and has experienced a significant bump in Republican primary polls over the last month after repeating his claims across the media.