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Republicans criticize Donald Trump on 'birther' issue

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Gov. Bob McDonnell and Sen. Marco Rubio are among those suggesting Trump's focus on the issue was hurting the GOP cause.

May 02, 2011|By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times
  • Donald Trump speaks to a Republican group in Las Vegas. He says the "birther" controversy was never his main issue.
Donald Trump speaks to a Republican group in Las Vegas. He says the "birther"… (Steve Marcus, Reuters )

Reporting from Washington — As Donald Trump boasted that he was "very proud" of prompting President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate, some Republicans on Sunday sharply criticized the flamboyant New York real estate magnate for pushing the "birther" issue.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Trump — a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination — was hurting the party's chances of defeating Obama next year.

"There's a lot of things Mr. Trump can be proud of, but some of his rhetoric and this focusing on the president's birth I do not think is the way for us to win the White House," Graham said on "Fox News Sunday."

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said the birth certificate controversy was "a side issue" that Trump never should have raised, and called it "a waste of time."

"The problem with President Obama is not where he was born, it's some of the policies that he's advocating," McDonnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a newly elected "tea party" favorite, implied on the same show that he did not take the birther issue seriously.

"I'm more concerned with issues that are happening back here on planet Earth," Rubio said.

A prominent former Republican, independent New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, added to the chorus.

"If Republicans ever want to have a chance of getting the White House, they've got to get off issues like the birther issue," Bloomberg said on "Meet the Press." "We need to talk about the economy and the deficit and immigration and healthcare and lots of social problems here and not waste our time talking about frivolous things."

The opposition by some Republicans to Trump's use of the issue did not faze the developer, who insisted in an interview Sunday that he had moved on.

"It was never my main issue. It was jobs and the economy and stopping other countries from destroying the United States economically," he told The Times. "But I'm very proud I was able to get him to finally release his birth certificate…. Maybe that's the kind of negotiator that the United States needs."

Trump had repeatedly raised the issue in recent weeks, questioning whether a birth certificate existed. In 2008, Obama had released the short form of the birth certificate, which is the one legally recognized in his native Hawaii.

Obama poked fun at Trump as they attended Saturday night's White House Correspondents' Assn. dinner.

"No one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald," Obama told the crowd in the traditional comedy routine delivered by the president. "And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter — like, did we fake the moon landing?"

TV cameras showed Trump not looking amused. Trump said Sunday he was surprised at "the volume" of jokes aimed at him, but he thought Obama "did a fine presentation."

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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