Nightly News   |  August 24, 2012

Romney’s joke rehashes ‘birther’ controversy

As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney touted his Michigan roots Friday, he made an off-the-cuff remark about the President’s birthplace, telling the crowd: “No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know this is the place that we were born and raised.” NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> to politics now, and the campaign trail, mitt romney was in his boyhood home state of michigan and stirred up a controversy with a remark about birth certificates , the democrats called a low blow. here now is nbc 's peter al alexand alexander.

>> reporter: returning to his native state with his wife and running mate by his side, mitt romney proudly touted his michigan roots.

>> what an opportunity for us to be back home.

>> reporter: but then in a seemingly off-the-cuff moment, instantaneously revived a highly charged and long settled issue about the president's birth place.

>> no one's ever asked to see my birth certificate , they know that this is the place we were born and raised.

>> reporter: the obama campaign quickly cried foul insisting romney ' decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give concern across america. earlier this year, he enlisted as a surrogate donald trump one of the president's loudst critics, who has frequently questioned whether president obama was born in the u.s.

>> it's my honor, real honor and privilege to endorse mitt romney .

>> reporter: team romney immediately tried to defuse the situation, senior adviser kevin madden told nbc news "the governor has always and repeatedly said he believes the president was born here in the united states ." while many in today's rally didn't make much of the remark --

>> i just think it's a little bit political rhetoric right now. it's just a little going back and forth on some small issues.

>> reporter: it's an issue that still resonates amongst some on the fringe of the republican party .

>> no,.

>> reporter: in weeks romney promised to elevate the tone of the campaign, deriding the president and its team for its negative attacks.

>> mr. president, take your campaign of division, anger and hate back to chicago and let us get about rebuilding and re reuniting america.

>> reporter: now the romney campaign is looking ahead to next week's republican convention with its theme of better future, where it hopes to redirect the political debate back to its central argument, romney 's private sector experience which they say will help turn around the american economy . late this evening in a network television interview mitt romney said his birth certificate comment was not a swipe at the president, that there is no question that president obama was born here in the united states , adding, david, that it was intended as a joke, saying we've got to have a little humor in a campaign. also tonight, nbc news has confirmed that ann romney , who is set to deliver a speech next monday at the convention, has now had that speech moved to tuesday night so it can air in prime time . david?

>> peter alexander on the campaign trail tonight, it's going to be a busy political weekend as we head into the convention weekend. my exclusive guest on "meet the press" will include former florida governor jeb bush and former republican presidential nominee john mccain , sunday, a special edition of "meet the press" here on this nbc station.