WASHINGTON, Apr 27 – In an extraordinary and surreal live television appearance, President Barack Obama on Wednesday slammed conspiracy theories that he was not American-born as carnival-style silliness.
Obama attempted to quash a controversy that has raged since he was a little-known presidential candidate, as the White House released a long-form, formal certificate of his birth in Hawaii on August, 4, 1961.
In a moment when the hurly-burly modern media culture of online rumour and raging opinion clashed with the sombre pageantry of the presidency, Obama appeared behind a podium in the White House briefing room to address Americans.
"I\’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press," Obama said, branding the row whipped up by conservative pundits and possible White House hopeful Donald Trump as a distraction from serious issues.
"We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We\’ve got better stuff to do. I\’ve got better stuff to do," Obama said as television networks broke into regular programming to cover the statement live.
The US Constitution specifies that presidents and vice presidents must be American born, and not simply US citizens, and conservative pundits have fanned the controversy to raise questions about Obama\’s political legitimacy.
The controversy has morphed from the right-wing political fringe into the centre of the US political debate: a recent CBS/New York Times poll found a quarter of Americans incorrectly thought Obama was not US-born.
But the president, who confessed he was bemused and puzzled by the controversy, said that America faced "monumental" choices on reviving the economy and hot-button issues like rising gas prices squeezing consumers.
"We\’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We\’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other," he said, in an apparent attempt to elevate America\’s bruising political debate.
"We\’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts.
"We\’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers. We live in a serious time right now."
The White House released an official long-form copy of Obama\’s birth certificate, which his legal counsel had travelled to his native state of Hawaii to collect, after Obama applied for an official waiver for it to be released.
The document, kept for years in Hawaii\’s official records, showed that "Barack Hussein Obama II" was born on August 4, 1961 at 7.24 pm in Kapiolani Maternity and Gynaecological hospital in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
It listed his parents as Stanley Ann Dunham, 18, from Wichita, Kansas and Barack Hussein Obama, 25, from Kenya.
Previously, the 2008 Obama presidential campaign had released a short-form computerized abstract of the kind issued to any Hawaiian when they ask for a copy of their birth certificate.
Trump, the billionaire property mogul and reality television star mulling a Republican presidential run has in recent weeks raised questions about Obama\’s birthplace, in an apparent bid to court the party\’s radical conservative base.
"I\’ve accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish," Trump said in the political bellwether state of New Hampshire, which will host an early 2012 Republican party nominating contest.
"I was just informed while on the helicopter that our president has finally released a birth certificate. I want it look at it, but I hope it\’s true."
"I am really honoured frankly to have played such a big role in getting rid of this issue.
"We have to see is it real, is it proper, what\’s on it. But I hope it checks out beautifully. I am really proud."
Republicans, despite the fact that sections of their membership have been challenging Obama on the issue, said that the president had been wrong to raise it to the level of a presidential statement.
"As I\’ve repeatedly stated, this issue is a distraction," said Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
"The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy, working with Republicans and focusing on the long term sustainability of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
"Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority – our economy."
Follow us on TWITTER @CapitalFM_Kenya