Rick Perry Refuses to Answer Birther Questions

COLUMBIA, S.C. – At a press conference at the South Carolina Statehouse, Texas Gov. Rick Perry refused to answer questions about whether he believes President Obama was born in the United States, calling it a distraction from the conversation on how to create jobs.

“That is one of the biggest distractions that there is going,” Perry said when asked what would convince him that President Obama was born in the United States. ”We need to be talking about jobs. Somebody wants to see my birth certificate I’d be happy to show it to them. But the fact [is] that is a distraction and Americans don’t really care about that, if you want to know the truth of the matter. … What Americans want to talk about is jobs.”

This is the second time since this weekend that Perry has been asked to clarify his views on the topic after a controversial statement in Sunday’s Parade magazine, and both times he’s turned down the opportunity to spell out his stance.

Perry steered the conversation away from the birther questions and touted his just-released economic plan while also addressing criticism that only the wealthy would benefit from his 20 percent flat tax proposal.

“Here’s what we’re interested in: getting Americans back working. And if folks who have money are gonna be creating those jobs, then I don’t have a problem in the world with that,” Perry said. “It doesn’t make any difference to me who creates those jobs.”

A similar plan was floated by Steve Forbes during his 1996 presidential run but failed to gain support, though Perry believes the country has transformed enough to allow for a flat tax to thrive.

“There’s a lot’s changed since 1996 from the standpoint of our tax code in this country,” Perry said.

Perry said his plan differs from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan because it does not include a value added tax or sales tax.

“Americans do not trust Washington, D.C., to have a new form of taxation,” Perry said. “What they’re looking for is simplicity. They’re looking for something that is flat. They’re looking for something that is fair. This plan addresses all of those.”

Perry was asked to explain the spending cuts he would make to cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP, but the Texas governor would not cite a plan and only pointed to balancing the budget by 2020.

Earlier in the day, Perry met with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for the first time, and though he did not share details of their conversation, Perry said DeMint seemed open to his tax proposal.

“I’ve got to suggest to you that he understands the idea of having simplicity,” Perry said.” He loves the idea of having someone who’s got a track record as the next president of the United States who knows how to stand up and say no to spending.”

Perry received the endorsement of speaker of the South Carolina house, Bobby Harrell, who endorsed Sen. John McCain in 2008, and 11 other state legislators, and though he’s sagging in the polls in the Palmetto State, Perry thinks there’s still time for a comeback.

“I’ve always said that polls are going to go up and down, so my bet is when Clemson or South Carolina are at halftime … they’re not going to call the game at halftime,” Perry said. “So we’re going to continue to be working and we’re going to continue to be– You know, we may change defense a little bit. We may call an audible or two, but the fact is it’s a long time ’til this campaign’s over with.”