WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Arizona Republican Party has announced plans to step down, days after he publicly questioned whether President Barack Obama has a "legitimate" birth certificate.
State GOP Chairman Tom Morrissey told azfamily.com on Wednesday that he would not seek a second term in January due to health issues. Morrissey said he is preparing to have knee surgery and wanted to be able to rest after the surgery. Morrissey, who had previously indicated he planned to run again, did not mention the birther claim when he announced he would step down.
“During a recovery you want your stress level to be as low as possible and this job is loaded with stress,” Morrissey told Newsmax.
Morrissey publicly joined the birther movement at Monday's meeting of the Electoral College, when he and two other Arizona electors, Gila County Republican Party Chairman Don Ascoli and former Graham County Republican Chairman John D. Rhodes, questioned Obama's birth certificate. At the time, Morrissey said that he was not questioning whether Obama was born in the United States, but rather if the Hawaiian birth certificate the president produced was "legitimate."
On Tuesday, Morrissey reiterated his skepticism to a radio station in Phoenix, and claimed that he was not aware of the birther movement. He said that he was performing a "sacred trust" as an elector and said he would have raised the same questions about Republican nominee Mitt Romney if concerns had been raised about his birthplace. Morrissey and the rest of Arizona's electors voted for Romney.
"My issue is not whether he was born here or not," Morrissey said to the radio station. "As an elector, I have a sacred trust to protect what is constitutionally viable. What I have seen from the president put out as a birth certificate is not a real document. I am not saying he wasn't born here."
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was quick to distance herself from Morrissey and his allies, saying she did not agree with them. Brewer has vetoed birther legislation in the past.
Morrissey's comments came a week after birther queen Orly Taitz interjected herself into the Electoral College process by filing a lawsuit in a federal court in California seeking to block Vice President Joe Biden from opening envelopes containing the electoral votes in front of a joint session of Congress in January. Taitz was joined in the lawsuit by federal prison inmate Keith Judd, who received 41 percent of the vote against Obama in May's Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia.