New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who was rumored to be on the shortlist for the vice presidential nod, said Tuesday that he suspects GOP candidate Mitt Romney "wishes he could take" his birther joke back.
"I think if he had to do it over again, he wouldn't make the joke, but you know what? When you're on camera 12, 14 hours a day and you're out at big rallies and you're just going off the cuff, there are going to be times when you're going to say stuff you wish you could take back," Christie told Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today Show." "Believe me that, I could put together a catalog for you of things I wish I could take back."
Romney told a crowd in Michigan on Friday that "no one's ever asked to see my birth certificate," a clear nod to the birther controversy over whether the president was born in the United States and is eligible to serve that office. President Barack Obama released his long-form birth certificate in April 2011 and sometimes references the birther movement in jest, including campaign mugs and buttons with his birth certificate on them.
But the Obama campaign and others didn't see Romney's joke as the same thing, considering the racially charged nature of the birther effort to take away his presidency.
Christie strayed a bit from the party line in saying it was a regrettable choice of words. The Romney campaign insisted on Friday that it was an unplanned remark and a reference to the candidate's Michigan roots. The candidate himself said Friday the joke was "fun about us, and coming home," adding, "we've got to have a little humor in a campaign."
Party Chairman Reince Priebus , said Sunday the joke controversy was "a nothing" and "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.'" Other Republicans echoed his argument.
Christie also dismissed the notion that the remarks were a play to the fringe groups behind the birther movement, despite the clear reference in Romney's joke.
"He has been the clearest and most affirmative of all the Republican candidates who were running for this nomination in saying he doesn't think that was an issue," he said, "he believes the president was born here in the United States and that it shouldn't be discussed."