President Barack Obama dismissed attacks on him and his administration for taking too much credit for killing Osama bin Laden, knocking one group's founding member for being a birther conspiracy theorist.
"I don't take these folks too seriously," Obama told The Virginian-Pilot. "One of their members is a birther who denies I was born here, despite evidence to the contrary. You've got another who was a tea party candidate in a recent election. This kind of stuff springs up before election time."
This appears to be the first time that the president has been asked to address this line of attack, which echoes the swift-boat assault against Sen. John Kerry during his presidential campaign in 2004.
The paper had asked him about Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, a self-proclaimed non-political group that has criticized the White House for leaking information that gives it too much credit for the bin Laden raid. The group claims to be non-political but has extensive ties to the Republican Party. It also has numerous members who downplayed national security leaks when they came from the Bush administration.
Obama, however, was referring to another entity. Special Operations Speaks is a group founded by former Navy SEAL member Larry Bailey with the goal of portraying the president as anti-military. It got off to an auspicious start last week, when Bailey told Foreign Policy Magazine that he was utterly convinced that Obama wasn't actually born in America.
"I have to admit that I'm a birther," said Bailey. "If there were a jury of 12 good men and women and the evidence were placed before them, there would be absolutely no question Barack Obama was not born where he said he was and is not who he says he is."
UPDATE: The Associated Press has identified the birther referenced by the president in the interview as Special Ops OPSEC member Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (Ret.), who appears in one of the group's films publicly questioning Obama's birth in Hawaii.
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