COMMERCE, Mich. — Republican Mitt Romney raised the discredited rumor that President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, jokingly declaring "no one's ever asked to see my birth certificate" as he campaigned Friday near his own Michigan birthplace.
Romney later insisted the remark was just a joke and not meant to question Obama's citizenship. But the comment risked creating an unwanted distraction for Romney in his last few days of campaigning before the Republican National Convention begins Monday in Tampa. It came a day after Romney caused another stir by declaring that big business was "doing fine" in the current struggling economy in part because companies get advantages from offshore tax havens.
He made his birth certificate remark at a large outdoor rally in Michigan, where he grew up and where his father, George Romney, served as governor. He was joined onstage by his wife, Ann, and running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Romney told supporters that he and Ann had been born at nearby hospitals.
"No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised," Romney said.
The crowd of more than 7,000 responded with hearty laughter.
But Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt swiftly denounced the remark, saying Romney "embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them."
Romney was asked about his comment in a CBS interview later.
"No, no, not a swipe," he said. "I've said throughout the campaign and before, there's no question about where he was born. He was born in the U.S. This was fun about us, and coming home. And humor, you know — we've got to have a little humor in a campaign."
The comment threatened to undercut Romney's complaints that Obama has been the one to inject a corrosive tone into the campaign.