White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday poked fun at new questions about Canadian-born Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), noting that “it would be quite ironic” for Cruz to become president, given the conservative “birthers” who have falsely suggested that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
“I think it would be quite ironic if after seven or eight years of drama over the president’s birth certificate, if Republican primary voters were to choose Sen. Cruz as their nominee, somebody who actually wasn’t born in the United States and only 18 months ago renounced his Canadian citizenship,” Earnest said at the daily press briefing.
The 2016 GOP presidential candidate was born in Calgary, Canada, but is a U.S. citizen through his American-born mother. According to the Constitution, a president must be “a natural-born citizen,” which includes anyone born overseas to a U.S. citizen.
While most constitutional scholars have concluded that his status would not be a problem, the topic of Cruz’s Canadian birth re-emerged on Tuesday, when his opponent, real estate mogul Donald Trump, told The Washington Post that it could spell trouble for the GOP.
“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” he said.
“It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head.”
Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014, as speculation of a possible presidential bid mounted.
He brushed off Trump’s criticism, responding Tuesday evening with a tweet featuring the character Fonzie “jumping the shark,” from the classic television show “Happy Days.” The expression refers to a television show doing something outlandish or extreme to rescue its flagging ratings.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 5, 2016
Trump has recently stepped up his attacks against Cruz, who now leads him in polls of Iowans with less than a month until the state’s caucuses on Feb. 1.
The businessman notably questioned Obama’s citizenship in 2011, claiming that he was born in Kenya and not in Hawaii. He demanded that Obama release his long-form birth certificate to prove that, in fact, he was born in the United States.
At the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Obama ribbed Trump for the controversy, showing the audience — including Trump — “his birth video,” which turned out to be a clip from “The Lion King.” He recently reprised the birther jokes, including during last year’s correspondents’ dinner and at Democratic fundraisers.