Although he has downplayed his involvement in the past, the Republican speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives appears to defend his connection to a "birther" lawsuit in a new fundraising push.
House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) does not directly reference the birther movement in the email, but he links to a blog post by Randy Turner on The Huffington Post and a video clip of MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, both of which discuss recent comments Jones made on a Missouri television program explaining his involvement in a 2009 lawsuit claiming President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. The links are part of a fundraising solicitation Jones sent out last week.
"The national liberal media, including The Huffington Post and Chris Matthews of MSNBC, are attacking me for standing up to the dangerous Obama agenda," Jones wrote. "You can help me send a message to these liberals that Missouri will not back down in the fight against federal overreach, taxation and tyranny."
Jones, who is also the Missouri state co-chairman for the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, was recently elected to help lead the Washington-based Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. He declined to comment for this story.
Jones was one of several state legislators to join the 2009 lawsuit filed by birther leader Orly Taitz, which also included former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes as a plaintiff. The lawsuit claimed Obama was not born in the United States and sought to have the president removed from office, as well as to limit his ability to make judicial appointments and handle military policy until the suit was resolved. Plaintiffs also claimed that the president and first lady Michelle Obama held dozens of legal residences in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. Among the addresses Taitz cited for the first lady were those of Walt Disney Studios and the headquarters for the Los Angeles Times. The lawsuit was dismissed.
On Feb. 3, Jones appeared on "The Jaco Report," a Missouri political news show, where he explained his involvement in the lawsuit. Jones said on the show that he got involved at the request of a "very personal constituent of mine." He did not reveal the constituent's identity and said that he now believes Obama settled the matter by showing his birth certificate.
Turner's blog post criticizing Jones centered largely on the Missouri lawmaker's involvement in the Taitz lawsuit, but also noted his positions on several Missouri-centric issues, including pushing right-to-work legislation, Medicaid cuts and gun rights in the state.
Taitz celebrated Jones's 2010 election as House majority leader in Missouri, calling him an "unapologetic birther" on her website. Jones downplayed Taitz's praise to PoliticMo.com at the time, saying of the birther lawsuit, "I’ve never really made that a really important part of anything I’ve done."
George Connor, a political science professor at Missouri State University, said he does not believe that Jones's involvement in the birther movement will cause the lawmaker long-term harm, at least in state Republican circles. Connor said as Republican primaries become increasingly conservative, Jones's ties to birtherism could in fact help his electoral chances.
"If Tim Jones would have any political trouble from this issue, it would be distancing himself from it," Connor said of the birther movement. "The challenge to Republicans in Missouri is from the right. I don't see the birther issue or his stance on it becoming an issue. For the most part, everyone is past that."
Connor noted that Jones's biggest worries are a looming fight with Gov. Jay Nixon (D) over the governor's push to expand Medicaid in Missouri and Jones's support for right-to-work laws. Republicans hold super-majorities in both houses of the Missouri state legislature.