Whatever Gov. Rick Perry was doing with the birther issue, he isn’t doing it anymore.
Or so it would seem from his latest thoughts on the subject — an interview he gave to a Florida newspaper.
According to portions of an interview aired by the St. Petersburg Times, the onetime (and, he hopes, future) front-runner in the GOP presidential field finally accepted categorically, all kidding aside, that Barack Obama was born in the United States.
“I don’t have any doubt about it,” Perry said.
The full interview is supposed to air on Sunday, which will cap off a costly week of distractions over the issue. On Sunday, Parade magazine published an interview in which Perry said he had no idea whether Obama’s birth certificate was real.
In the interview, Perry said he didn’t have a “definitive answer” and cryptically added that he “had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.”
“And?” the interviewer from Parade asked.
“He doesn’t think it’s real,” Perry answered.
The governor, trying to get his stumbling campaign back on track with a major tax policy speech on Tueday, was asked about his doubts again at a press conference in Columbia, S.C. He refused to directly answer the question and called the issue a distraction.
The bleeding continued after Perry dug in during a subsequent CNBC interview this week, saying he didn’t “have a clue” about what Obama’s birth certificate says. In the St. Petersburg Times interview, Perry said he was joking all along.
Obama finally released his full birth certificate in April, which pushed doubters of his American birth to the political fringe. Perry’s seeming flirtation with the birthers, the name given to those who believe Obama was born somewhere else and doesn’t meet the qualifications to be president, sparked criticism from leading Republicans.
GOP strategist Karl Rove, no big fan of the Texas governor, said Perry risked damaging himself by associating his campaign with a "nutty view." Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said as much in an email to Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin.
"Republican candidates should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States," Bush wrote. "It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of the President."