Bennett says he's received verification of president's birth certificate

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX--Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Tuesday evening that he has received an e-mail from officials in Hawaii, which he believes contains the information he sought to verify President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

"By requesting the verification I can now report to thousands of constituents that we did what can be done and he is qualified to be on the ballot," Bennett said.

Bennett said he had not actually opened the email as of 7 p.m. Tuesday, but was confident it contained the information he asked for.

Bennett has first contacted the Hawaii Attorney General's Office in March in an effort to get verification of the president's birth certificate.

Last week he said there was a chance he would exclude Obama from the state's November ballot if he could not verify that information.

Bennett said he sought the confirmation after getting requests from 1,200 constituents, but his efforts drew criticism that he was pandering to extremists in the Republican party and embarrassing the state.

Bennett said he is sorry "the thing has been blown out of proportion," but said he was not sorry he took up the issue.

"We were simply doing what over 1,000 constituents asked me to do so they could have confidence the people on the Arizona ballot are entitled to be there," he said.

The story has garnered national attention and now parody.

By Tuesday night more than 16,000 people had signed an online petition demanding Bennett investigate whether Romney is a unicorn.

John Hlinko, a liberal pundit and founder of the website Left Action and lives in New York, created the petition.

It says: "1,200 emails were enough to get Bennett to launch an 'investigation' of the president's birth, and come out with this statement.  So 1,200 messages to him regarding unicorn Romney should be enough for him to launch an investigation on that front as well."

"There's a little cheekiness in it of course, but the point we're here making is, that is really no more absurd than all these absurd allegations about the president's birth," Hlinko said in a phone interview.

Bennett called efforts like Hlinko's "ridiculous."

He said there is still a chance he will try to verify Mitt Romney's Michigan birth certificate if he is asked to.

Bennett also denied having a conflict of interest in the matter. Bennett is an Arizona co-chair of the Romney campaign and has endorsed him.

"This is probably a distraction or is not what the Romney campaign wanted to talk about anyway, so I don't think it did the Romney campaign any favors," Bennett said.