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Activist who challenges Obama's citizenship is booted from Tax Day Tea Party

CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS

After candidates complain to organizers, Orly Taitz's speaking engagement is withdrawn. Taitz has been a leading voice in the discredited 'birther' movement.

April 13, 2010|By Seema Mehta

Several California Republican political candidates, including Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina, were scheduled to share the stage this week with one of the leaders of the "birther" movement that claims President Obama was not born in this country and is thus ineligible for his elected office.


FOR THE RECORD:
Tea party gathering: An article in the LATExtra section Wednesday about a controversial speaker whose invitation to appear at a Tax Day Tea Party rally was rescinded gave the wrong name for a consultant to an Assembly candidate who is among those scheduled to speak at the event. The consultant to San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson is Jason Roe, not Joe Roe. —

Orly Taitz, an Orange County attorney who has gone to court many times to try to disqualify Obama, was invited to speak Thursday at a Tax Day Tea Party rally in Pleasanton, Calif., that is expected to draw thousands of people. Late Tuesday, organizers said that they had rescinded Taitz's invitation after questions were raised about her presence by candidates who had been contacted by The Times.

Bridget Melson, founder and president of the Pleasanton Tea Party, said the organization had been "getting calls from candidates like crazy."

"It's not worth it," she said. "She's too controversial. This is not what the tea party is about at this point."

Taitz's lawsuits have been thrown out and lambasted by judges and she has been fined $20,000 for filing frivolous lawsuits. But Taitz, who is now running for secretary of state, was nonetheless invited to speak at Thursday's event, which is expected to be among the largest Tax Day events in the state.

Taitz's invitation -- and uninvitation -- are examples of the complications facing Republicans this year as they try to capture the enthusiasm of the tea party movement without getting sucked into its conspiracy-tinged fringes.

In addition to Fiorina, a representative of Senate candidate Chuck DeVore and several congressional and state legislative candidates are scheduled to speak at the Pleasanton rally.

Spokespersons for Fiorina and DeVore said separately that until they were contacted by The Times, they had been unaware that Taitz was scheduled to speak. Both said their campaigns had already committed to the event and would attend.

"I can say emphatically that the Chuck DeVore campaign and Chuck DeVore himself strongly disapproves of Orly Taitz and the crazy theories she continues to advance," said Josh Trevino, a DeVore spokesman.

Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund added that while her candidate disagrees with Obama on issues, she believes he is the legitimately elected president of the United States.

"President Obama is absolutely eligible for the presidency and is a natural-born United States citizen," she said.

One candidate threatened to withdraw from the event before Tuesday's decision to uninvite Taitz. John Dennis, who is running for the Republican nomination to oppose House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco, said he would not appear on the same stage as Taitz.

"The presence of a discredited publicity seeker on the same platform with patriotic Americans distorts the focus of our movement, distracts from our common message and gives ammunition to those who continue to question our legitimacy," Dennis said in a statement.

Taitz is best known for her crusade to prove Obama was born in Kenya and not Hawaii, a falsehood that sprang to life during the 2008 presidential campaign and that most voters and mainstream Republicans reject. But she has also been creating waves in the state Republican Party.

In her quest for the party nomination for secretary of state, she has tried to get the other GOP candidate, Damon Dunn, removed from the ballot on the grounds that he is only pretending to be a Republican. Dunn is an African American real estate entrepreneur and former NFL football player who has attracted support from powerful GOP figures.

"The only reason he was endorsed so far is because he is an African American, and Republicans want to have an African American to show diversity," Taitz said in a blog post. Dunn brushed aside her criticism.

In a phone interview Tuesday before her invitation was pulled, Taitz dismissed the dust-up over her planned appearance.

"Look, the truth is the truth," she said. "It is important for the public to know. Just like it took some time but Watergate was investigated and there was resolution. By the same token, Obama needs to be investigated."

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said the GOP candidates' planned attendance at an event with Taitz was a sign of desperation. "If that's the base of the Republican Party, the Republicans are in very serious trouble," he said.

Others said that GOP candidates merely needed to distance themselves from Taitz's message. Not everyone speaking at the event would do so, however, including a top state party official who said Obama's birthplace is not settled.

"I certainly don't have enough information to decide that," said Tom Del Beccaro, vice chair of the California Republican Party. "I've never seen yay or nay either way, so how could I know?"

And a consultant to San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson, a candidate for state Assembly who is speaking Thursday, declined to say where Wilson believed Obama was born.

"Given the things going on in our state right now, the last thing I am thinking about is where Barack Obama was born," consultant Jason Roe quoted Wilson as saying.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to consultant Jason Roe as Joe Roe.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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