Ken Bennett, the Arizona Secretary of State who recently touched off a media firestorm by threatening to take President Obama's name off the ballot in Arizona if the state of Hawaii didn't provide additional verification of the president's birth certificate, has softened -- and seemingly backed off -- his threat.
A little background: Last Thursday, Bennett told local radio host Mike Broomhead that while he personally believed President Obama was born in Hawaii, the findings of Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave his constituents reason to doubt it. Being someone who listened to constituents, Bennett decided to ask Hawaii, pursuant to a specific Hawaii-sanctioned process, to "verify the facts contained in his [Obama's] birth certificate.”
That request, however, was ignored for "eight weeks," according to Bennett. He got so tired that he told Broomhead if Hawaii didn't comply, and fast, he'd be forced to keep President Obama off the ballot.
General fury ensued. Some liberals even mocked Broomhead by likening his request to the search for a unicorn. Yes, literally, a unicorn. Talking Points Memo reports:
At least one progressive online network, Left Action, took up the cause this week under the theory that if 1,200 emails can convince Bennett to investigate one conspiracy theory, maybe they can cobble together enough support to get him to investigate anything.
As of Tuesday afternoon some 15,000 people and counting had already put their names on Left Action’s online petition asking Bennett to investigate whether Mitt Romney is really a unicorn. (Yes, a unicorn. The petition even has its own domain name: MittRomneyIsAUnicorn.com.) That’s more than 10 times the number of people who asked Bennett to investigate the president in the first place.
While Roberts said he hadn’t seen the unicorn petition, he’s heard about it through a litany of nasty emails in recent days.
But a close listening of Bennett's original radio interview seems to show the ballot threat was motivated by suspicion over bureaucratic stonewalling from the state of Hawaii instead of a theory that President Obama was not born in the United States. To that end, his decision to drop the threat maintains the same reasoning that motivated him to make it in the first place. Again, from Talking Points Memo:
After days of ridicule for launching a conspiracy theory-fueled investigation into Barack Obama’s birth certificate, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett on Tuesday backed off his threat to keep the president off the ballot in November and apologized to his state.
“If I embarrassed the state, I apologize, but that certainly wasn’t my intent,” Bennett said in an interview with Phoenix radio station KTAR. “He’ll be on the ballot as long as he fills out the same paperwork and does the same things that everybody else has.”
Bennett said he still intends to keep asking Hawaii for verification that Obama’s birth certificate is authentic. But he said he only plans to use Hawaii’s answer as a way to satisfy demands from constituents who remain unconvinced Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States and so therefore eligible to be president.
He also said he talked to Hawaii’s attorney general on Monday night and clarified what he is looking to have verified. He said he “reworded” his request and expects to receive a response from Hawaii officials “in the next 24 to 48 hours.”
"I believe he was born in Hawaii," he told KTAR. "I'm not a birther, which means I do not subscribe to the opinion that he was born somewhere else."
Still, he seemed a little frustrated by the ridicule: "What is so sacred or untouchable about this question that you can't even ask the question?"
Will Hawaii respond this time? We'll see.