Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday downplayed presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney's recent joke about President Barack Obama's birth certificate, calling the controversy "ridiculous" and asking if "we've really gotten to the point where we can't have any levity at all in politics."
"I think it's a nothing," Priebus told CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union." "The fact is that Mitt Romney, myself -- from the moment that I became chairman -- consistently Governor Romney has said that this is a non-starter, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii."
Romney said Friday that "no one's ever asked to see my birth certificate," referring to his own birth in Michigan. But it was also a reference to the highly charged issue of the president's birth, which has been questioned by some conservatives, including some who campaigned with Romney. Although Romney has dismissed "birtherism" in the past, some saw his Friday comment as a play to those who believe the president was not born in the U.S.
Preibus said that was not the point of Romney's statement.
"He's a Michigander," Priebus said of Romney. "He's making the point that we're ahead in Michigan, we're doing well in these battleground states and he's making a point that, 'I'm from Michigan, I was born here.'"
Priebus added the president "makes these comments all the time," referring to Obama's jokes on the birther issue.
The Obama campaign, though, didn't see it that way and quickly condemned Romney's statement, saying the U.S. "doesn't need a birther-in-chief."
Priebus appeared on several Sunday talk shows to assure voters that the Republican National Convention this week will go on, despite a tropical storm that caused the party to cancel the event's first day. He told Crowley that organizers were concerned about the safety of attendees traveling to the convention and whether they would able to leave if conditions deteriorated on Monday. He said he doesn't expect any issues for the rest of the week.
"We're 100 percent full steam ahead on Tuesday," he said.
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