The White House released copies of President Obama's original birth certificate today to try to put to rest conspiracy theories surrounding the circumstances of his birth and eligibility for office.
The extraordinary move, more than two years into the Obama presidency, followed weeks of mounting frustration inside the White House over what Obama described as a "distraction" and a "sideshow" that was drawing attention away from more pressing issues.
"We've got some enormous challenges out there," the president told reporters at the White House. "There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work. Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices. We're going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt."
But, he said, the American people are not going to be able to rise to these challenges "if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers."
Later Wednesday, in Chicago, during a taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show, the President was in a more jovial mood, joking with Oprah about the "birther" controversy that he hopes today's release will finally "put to rest."
"Can I just say --I was there, so I knew that -- I knew I had been born. I remembered it," Obama said.
"He was born here," First Lady Michelle Obama, sitting by her husband's side for the interview interjected.
Among the documents distributed by White House Counsel Bob Bauer are the president's "long form" birth certificate and correspondence between Bauer and the state of Hawaii, where the president was born.
The president's personal attorney, Judith Corley, flew to Hawaii to pick up the original, certified copies and carry them back to the White House, where she arrived around 5 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.
Unlike the Hawaii certification of live birth, which the Obama campaign released in 2008, the certificate of live birth includes the original, handwritten signatures of Obama's mother Ann Dunham Obama, the attending doctor, and the local registrar.
The document also reveals the location of Obama's birth to be Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu as well as the age, birthplace and occupation of both his father, Barack Obama, Sr., and mother.
His father's birthplace in Kenya was the basis of many unfounded claims that President Obama was born in Kenya, not the U.S. The Constitution stipulates only natural born citizens can be eligible for the presidency.
Obama said he "normally would not comment on stuff like this," but that the urgency of budget problems necessitated his taking steps to put the story to rest.
"We don't have time for this kind of silliness," Obama said before departing for Chicago. "We've got better stuff to do. I've got better stuff to do."
Republican House Speaker John Boehner indicated through a spokesman that he agrees. "This has long been a settled issue," Kevin Smith said in a statement. "The Speaker's focus is on cutting spending, lowering gas prices, and creating American jobs."
Many Americans Believed Birther Claims
Despite claims by Obama and Boehner that Obama's birth is not an issue, polls indicate that more and more Americans have been doubting the president was born in the U.S. Only 33 percent of Republicans said that the president was born in the U.S., with 45 percent sure he was born outside the U.S., and 22 percent unsure where he was born, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll from earlier this month reported.
Even Democrats were unsure of his birthplace with 19 percent of Democrats believing the president was born outside the U.S. or weren't sure where he was born. Among independents, 48 percent were either sure he was born outside the U.S. or weren't clear either way.
While some members of the so-called "birther" movement contend they have questioned the circumstances of Obama's birth well before his presidential campaign, it wasn't until the spring of 2008 when Democratic supporters of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton helped to thrust the issue onto the national stage.
Then-Sen. Obama posted on his campaign website the certificate of live birth that the state of Hawaii provides for those who request copies of their birth certificate instead of the original "long form" copy.
But critics of Obama suggested Obama's refusal to release his long-form birth certificate indicated he had something to hide, a claim that has persisted in the months and years since.
The rumor has been given voice most recently by Donald Trump as Trump considers running for the White House.
"Today, I'm very proud of myself because I've accomplished what nobody else" was able to do, said Trump, who arrived this morning in the early campaign state of New Hampshire.
"Our president has finally released a birth certificate," he said. Obama "should have done it a long time ago. Why he didn't.... I don't know," Trump said.
The release comes as the legal challenge over the president's birth certificate is scheduled to return to federal court in California on Monday.
The lawsuit, brought by a coalition of 40 "birthers," contends Obama "has never provided proof of his legitimacy" to be president and that "ample evidence" exists to show he may be illegitimate.
U.S. District Court Judge David Carter dismissed the case in 2009, reasoning in part that courts are unable to "disregard the limits on its power put in place by the Constitution and to effectively overthrow a sitting president."
Attorney Orly Taitz, who represents the coalition, has said she believes the courts can and should examine the questions and the evidence to resolve them once and for all. But today she says the issue appears to be resolved.
"If he released it, I assume it's valid," Taitz said. "I would not doubt the ink and the typewriting. That should resolve the issue of him being born in Hawaii. I thank Donald Trump for getting this done."