In this photo released by NBC House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks about the 2012 budget on NBC's "Meet the Press" in Washington Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. Boehner said he wants President Barack Obama to support Republican efforts to make deep cuts in this year's budget as a down payment in the effort to attack soaring deficits. (AP Photo/NBC, William B. Plowman)
WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner says Americans have a right to think what they want to think, even when they're wrong about President Barack Obama's citizenship and his religion.
Some people believe that Obama, a native of Hawaii, was actually born outside the U.S. or in some other way is not a natural-born citizen eligible to be president. There is also a persistent belief among some that Obama, a Christian, is actually a Muslim.
When the host of NBC's "Meet the Press" asked Boehner whether he, as speaker of the House, had a responsibility to "stand up to that kind of ignorance," Boehner told David Gregory: "It's not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people."
Boehner continued: "Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That's good enough for me. The president says he's a Christian. I accept him at his word." He later called those "the facts" of Obama's background.
Gregory asked, "But that kind of ignorance, about whether he's a Muslim, doesn't concern you?"
"The American people have the right to think what they want to think," Boehner replied. "I can't — it's not my job to tell them."
Boehner denied that he is willing to let those misperceptions remain because they weaken and delegitimize Obama.