Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has backed off of his threat to keep President Barack Obama off of the state's ballot in November and apologized for embarrassing the state with his questions about the president's citizenship, according to Talking Points Memo. Bennett and his office have come under heavy fire in recent days for resurrecting the "birther" flap, the belief by some that President Obama was born somewhere other than in Hawaii, a conjecture that has been repeatedly debunked.
In an interview with AM talk radio station KTAR, Bennett said, "If I embarrassed the state, I apologize." He said the he is "not a birther," but opened the investigation as a response to emails from constituents. When asked if perhaps he was pandering to birthers in a bid to gain political credibility with the far right, Bennett, who is a co-chair of presumed Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's Arizona campaign, strenuously denied that he has engaged in a publicity stunt.
"I didn't do this for attention. If I was doing this for attention, I would have had a press conference when I sent the letter to Hawaii asking for verification. I didn't do any of that. I haven't tried to draw any attention. I was just trying to do a quiet little step that was provided in Hawaii's law," he said.
It was in another radio interview on Thursday, May 17 that Bennett said that it was still a possibility that Obama may not appear on the ballot in November. He made it clear that he intended to continue to press the Hawaiian state government for an official confirmation of the president's birth in that state in August of 1961, and that if he didn't get what he was after, he would declare Obama ineligible to run for office in Arizona.
Bennett's actions have ignited a storm of controversy and even spawned an internet meme. Having heard that the Secretary of State's investigation was spurred by some 1,300 angry emails the office received from constituents, the group Left Action urged supporters to write letters to the Secretary of State's office demanding that the department investigate whether or not Mitt Romney is a unicorn.
Yesterday, emails came to light that showed the exchange between Bennett's office and Jill T. Nagamine, Hawaii's Deputy Secretary of State. Bennett asked the Hawaii Department of Health for proof that Obama was born in that state, but then Hawaii, where officials have been deluged by requests for the president's birth certificate, asked to see proof that Bennett needed proof of President Obama's citizenship.
Mark Baker, a spokesman for Bennett said that the office has been flooded with emails and calls. Of the petition asking whether or not Romney is a unicorn, Baker replied, "We have received emails containing that request, usually followed by some colorful language suggesting things I don’t think I can physically perform.”
Bennett backed off of his threat to keep the president off of Arizona's ballot and made his apology yesterday. Hours later, the State of Hawaii announced that Arizona's Secretary of State had satisfied their verification requirements and that he had been sent an official copy of the president's long-form birth certificate.
(screen grab of AZ Sec. of State Ken Bennett via YouTube)