Congressman Apologizes for Saying Obama Is 'Just Not an American'

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Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado is backing off comments he made last weekend when he hinted at "birtherism" in a speech and said that President Obama is "in his heart... not an American."

During a campaign fundraiser on Saturday, Coffman discussed the importance of defeating Barack Obama and not allowing any other Democratic "allies" to join him in Congress. He closed by dancing around the still thriving conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, bu using the typical construction of saying “I don’t know" if it's true or not. But even if he was, Coffman added, he sure doesn't act like one.

Here's the full quote, which was received with moderate applause by the crowd:

“I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don’t know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.”

The event was not videotaped, but audio of Coffman's full 12-minute speech was posted online by a supporter. It was posted not to embarrass him, but because as the backer told KUSA in Denver, "I'm glad the congressman said it. Not enough have. More should." However, after being asked about the speech, Coffman apologized to the news station. He pulled back on the "birther" issue — without actually saying he believes Obama was born in Hawaii — but his clarification suggests that the "in his heart" idea still stands. Again, here's the full statement he gave to KUSA:

"I misspoke and I apologize. I have confidence in President Obama's citizenship and legitimacy as President of the United States. I don't believe the president shares my belief in American Exceptionalism. His policies reflect a philosophy that America is but one nation among many equals. As a Marine, I believe America is unique and based on a core set of principles that make it superior to other nations." 

Coffman, who is also up for re-election, faces a tougher fight than usual as his district was re-drawn after 2010 to include fewer Republicans. In response to the comments, his opponent, State Rep. Joe Miklosi, called Coffman "Colorado’s version of Rush Limbaugh."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.