Bennett responds to 'birther' controversy

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

MESA, Ariz. -- Secretary of State Ken Bennett is defending his decision to try to verify President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Bennett said despite what some may think, he did not ask officials in Hawaii for verification to pander to certain voters.

"Our intent was not for publicity or pandering, or anything like that," Bennett said Monday night in an interview. "I did it because I want to make sure we've done everything to make sure the integrity of the ballot in Arizona is preserved."

Bennett was accused of fanning the flames of the "birther" movement after an interview on KFYI radio last week during which he said it was possible he would not put Obama on the November ballot if he could not verify the authenticity of the president's Hawaiian birth certificate.

On Monday, when asked if there was still a chance he would leave Obama off the ballot, Bennett responded: "Only if he doesn't do what everyone in Arizona has to do in Arizona to get on the ballot."

Since March, Bennett and others in his office have been asking officials in Hawaii's Attorney General's Office to provide verification of the president's birth certificate.

"I'm not asking for any more birth certificates. I'm simply asking them to verify what they're required by law to verify," he said.

Officials from Hawaii have responded by asking Bennett to prove he legitimately needs the verification. They also asked him to prove he is seeking the information for all candidates and not just singling out one person.

On Monday, Bennett said he would work to verify the birth certificates of Mitt Romney and any other presidential candidates who qualify for the ballot if he is asked to by constituents.

"If other people ask me to verify theirs, I will probably verify theirs, too," he said.

Bennett said he plans to hold a conference call with officials in Hawaii later this week to resolve the issues.