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Champaign mayor: Obama's not a citizen
Associated Press

Mayor Jerry Schwieghart is seen at the Champaign County tea party rally at West Side Park in Champaign.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 4/16/2010 4:13 PM

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CHAMPAIGN -- When a man with a video camera at a tea party protest asked Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart what he thought of President Barack Obama, the three-term Republican didn't hesitate.

"I don't think he's American, personally," the third-term Republican mayor said Thursday in a video that's been posted on YouTube. "You know, if you're not willing to produce an original certificate like a birth certificate, then you've got something to hide."

The 71-year-old Schweighart told The Associated Press on Friday that he stands by the statement.

"Oh sure," he said. "My stand, and I don't understand why everybody is so upset, is he's never shown the original birth certificate."

The mayor was echoing complaints made by some tea party activists and so-called birthers who doubt the president is qualified to hold his office. Though state officials in Hawaii say vital records there confirm Obama was born there, birthers say the president has never proven his citizenship.

A spokesman for the Illinois Democratic Party said he was surprised to still be responding to questions about Obama's legitimacy.

"Most rational people have discarded that question years ago," Steve Brown said.

The mayor's statement led to discussion on local talk radio Friday. A half dozen or more callers sounded off on WDWS radio's "Penny for Your Thoughts" program, some backing the mayor, some saying he'd embarrassed the city.

Schweighart said the man who videotaped him appeared to be part of a student group from the University of Illinois who attended the rally in opposition to the tea party. The YouTube video was posted by someone whose online ID is illinoisgrads, but didn't respond to a request for comment The Associated Press sent through the Web site.

The mayor said he doesn't know Obama, though years ago he shared a table with him at a Champaign event where Obama spoke. Schweighart said he had no particular awareness of Obama as a politician -- much less concern about him -- before the former senator from Illinois became president.

But Schweighart, who was a Champaign police officer for 32 years, said he shares many of the tea party's concerns about the president's health care plan and other issues.

"It's just worrisome that the government is going to be running everything," he said.