Obama releases birth form, decries 'silliness'
By going on national TV from the White House, Obama portrayed himself as a voice of reason amid a loud, lingering debate on his birth status. Though his personal attention to the issue elevated it as never before, Obama said to Republican detractors and the media, it is time to move on to bigger issues.
Citing huge budget decisions in Washington, Obama said, "I am confident that the American people and America's political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve these problems. We always have. But we're not going to be able to do it if we are distracted."
Obama spoke shortly after the White House released a copy of the long form of his birth certificate, which contains more extensive data than a version released earlier.
The certificate says Obama was born to an American mother and Kenyan father, in Hawaii, which makes him constitutionally eligible to hold the office of president. Obama released a standard short form before he was elected in 2008 but requested copies of his original birth certificate from Hawaii officials this week in hopes of quieting the lingering controversy.
White House officials have said the issue was settled long ago. But so-called "birthers" opposed to Obama have kept it alive. Potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently began questioning why Obama, a Democrat, had not ensured the long form was released.
From the early primary state of New Hampshire, Trump took credit for getting Obama to act.
"He should have done it a long time ago. I am really honored to play such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue," Trump said.
Polls show large numbers of Republicans have continued to doubt Obama is a natural born citizen eligible to be president. Trump, the bombastic real estate mogul, has seized on the issue as he weighs a GOP candidacy.
While Obama and White House officials avoided mentioning Trump by name, officials said they released the birth certificate partially because the issue had moved beyond fringe discussion, and Obama criticized a media culture that had not let the story go.
"This issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now. I think it started during the campaign," Obama said. "I have watched with bemusement, I've been puzzled at the degree at which this thing just kept on going."
"We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers," the president said.
He did not take any questions and did not say why the document had not been released earlier.
Many Republican leaders have sought to distance themselves from the "birther" theory as a discredited notion not worthy of national public debate.
In a statement after Obama spoke, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the issue a distraction — and yet blamed Obama for playing campaign politics by addressing it.
"The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy," Priebus said. "Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority — our economy."
The newly released certificate is signed by the delivery doctor, Obama's mother and the local registrar. His mother, then 18, signed her name (Stanley) Ann Dunham Obama.
The form says Barack Hussein Obama II was born at 7:24 p.m. on Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital, within the city limits of Honolulu.
There is no mention of religion. It says his father, Barack Hussein Obama, age 25, was African and born in Kenya and his mother was Caucasian and born in Wichita, Kan. Obama's mother and the doctor signed the certificate on Aug. 7 and 8.Hawaii's registrar certified the new photocopy of the document provided to the White House on April 25, 2011.
The White House also released a letter from the president on April 22 requesting two certified copies of his original certificate of live birth. Also released was a letter from Loretta Fuddy, Hawaii's director of health, approving the request.
The president's personal counsel, Judith Corley, traveled to Hawaii to pick up the documents and carried them back to Washington on a plane. The documents arrived at the White House late Tuesday.
AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller contributed to this story.