In case there was any doubt about it before: The man in charge of running Arizona’s elections has no plans to investigate Mitt Romney’s birth certificate the way he’s been looking into President Obama’s.
“No, we haven’t contacted Michigan,” a spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Bennett told TPM in an email on Tuesday. “I don’t know if Michigan has the same statute that Hawaii has.”
Since he first revealed his conspiracy theory-fueled investigation into Obama’s birth certificate and threatened last week to keep the president off the state’s ballot, Bennett and his staff have been ducking for political cover behind the people they say really started it: the 1,200 constituents who sent angry emails begging him to take up their cause.
It was only because of them, Bennett said, that he began to look into the birth certificate issue in the first place. His spokesman, Matt Roberts, told TPM “with complete and utter honesty” it has nothing to do with Bennett’s affiliation as a Republican or his role as Romney’s Arizona campaign co-chair.
But those excuses apparently didn’t sit well with the legions of the president’s supporters and others convinced by clear evidence that Obama really is a natural born citizen of the United States and therefore eligible to serve as president.
“The reaction has been largely negative since the story broke,” Roberts said. It “balanced out the thousands of people who advocated for Mr. Bennett to keep (Obama) off the ballot in the first place.”
Balanced is one term for it. Tipped the scales might be another. At least one progressive online network, Left Action, took up the cause this week under the theory that if 1,200 emails can convince Bennett to investigate one conspiracy theory, maybe they can cobble together enough support to get him to investigate anything.
As of Tuesday afternoon some 15,000 people and counting had already put their names on Left Action’s online petition asking Bennett to investigate whether Mitt Romney is really a unicorn. (Yes, a unicorn. The petition even has its own domain name: MittRomneyIsAUnicorn.com.) That’s more than 10 times the number of people who asked Bennett to investigate the president in the first place.
While Roberts said he hadn’t seen the unicorn petition, he’s heard about it through a litany of nasty emails in recent days.
“We have received emails containing that request,” he said, “usually followed by some colorful language suggesting things I don’t think I can physically perform.”
The anger is something of an echo to the rage Bennett heard from the right even after he launched the investigation in March, including emails calling him “week-kneed” (sic) and saying he obviously had little interest in upholding his oath of office.
Still, despite the reversal in rhetoric, Roberts said his boss has no regrets about launching the investigation and no plans to call it off until he gets the answers he’s looking for from Hawaii. Roberts said they’re just hoping that comes as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Hawaii officials, tired of the mountains of requests they have gotten about Obama’s birth certificate from conspiracy theorists over the years, have made Bennett jump though a series of hoops to prove he’s qualified to investigate the matter.
As of Friday, a spokesman for the Hawaii attorney general’s office said Bennett still hadn’t qualified despite two months of trying.
“We’re hopeful to have some closure from HI very soon,” Bennett’s spokesman wrote in an email on Tuesday, “and if they supply us with the verification in-lieu of certified copy, the issue will be over as far as we’re concerned.”
Update: Late Tuesday, Bennett backed off his threat to keep Obama off the ballot and apologized for embarrassing Arizona.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com