COLUMBIA, S.C. --Texas Gov. Rick Perrydodged a question about whether he thought President Obama was born in the United States, calling it a "distraction" at a South Carolina press conference and declining to provide a direct answer.
When a reporter asked Perry if he believes the president is a natural born U.S. citizen - and thus constitutionally qualified to serve - the Republican presidential contender scolded him for asking the question.
"That is a big distraction and Americans really don't care about that if you want to know the truth," Perry said. He insisted voters want to talk about jobs.
Perry offhandedly added that he would show anyone his birth certificate. But he has raised eyebrows by suggesting that the one Mr. Obama already has made public might not be legitimate. In an interview with Parade magazine, published over the weekend, Perry waffled when asked if he believes the president was born in the United States, refusing, when pressed, to give a definitive answer and noting that celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump thinks the birth certificate is fake.
Tuesday morning, before delivering a speech about tax and entitlement reform, he briefly discussed the Obama birth certificate issue with CNBC's John Harwood and said: "It's a good issue to keep alive" adding, "it's fun."
Minutes before Perry's press conference here, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told the Washington Post that the birther talk needs to stop.
"Republican candidates should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of the President," he said.
Perry has also gotten criticism from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and - importantly - Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad for his comments.
Perry was in Columbia to receive the endorsement of state House Speaker Robert Harrell.