WASHINGTON (Associated Press) — Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana says he supports conservative organizations challenging President Barack Obama's citizenship in court.
Vitter, who is running for re-election, made the comments at a town hall-style event in Metairie, La., on Sunday when a constituent asked what he would do about what the questioner said was Obama's "refusal to produce a valid birth certificate."
Such claims about Obama's birth certificate have been discredited. But with the crowd applauding the question, Vitter responded that although he doesn't personally have legal standing to bring litigation, he supports "conservative legal organizations and others who would bring that to court," according to a video of the event.
"I think that is the valid and most possibly effective grounds to do it," Vitter said, although he later cautioned that the matter could distract from policy issues.
"I think if we focus on that issue and let our eye off the ball ... I think that's a big mistake," he said. "I'm not dismissing any of this. I think first and foremost, we need to fight the Obama agenda at the ballot box starting this fall."
So-called birthers have challenged Obama's standing as president by arguing that he was not born in the United States.
Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed the president's citizenship, and his Hawaiian birth certificate has been made public, along with newspaper birth notices published when he was born in 1961.
Last year, a federal judge in Washington threw out a lawsuit on the issue, calling the case a waste of the court's time and suggesting the plaintiff's attorney may have to compensate the president's lawyer.
Vitter said at Sunday's event that the only direct information he has about the issue is what he's learned through the news media "filter." His spokesman did not respond to a question Monday about whether the senator questions Obama's citizenship.
A spokesman for Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Democrat challenging Vitter, called the birth certificate issue "nonsense."
"While Louisiana families are suffering from the biggest man-made disaster in history, David Vitter is trying to score political points by perpetuating a completely debunked conspiracy theory," spokesman Jeff Giertz said.