“I can't spend all my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead,” U.S. President Barack Obama has said, making clear his disdain for responding to a “network of misinformation” — a reference to the “birther movement”.
Mr. Obama rejected allegations he is either Muslim or not born in the U.S., saying he “trusted in the American people's capacity to get beyond all this nonsense”.
When asked on the NBC Nightly News television show about 20 per cent of Americans saying he is Muslim, he said he had to deal with such issues when he ran for the Senate.
“There were those who said I couldn't win as U.S. Senator because I had a funny name. And people would be too unfamiliar with it. And yet, we ended up winning that Senate seat in Illinois,” he said.
Even as he denounced the rumours about his religion, Mr. Obama reiterated his support for the right of groups to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks.
Mr. Obama said: “I think my statement at the Iftar dinner in the White House was very clear... that if you can build a church... synagogue... or a Hindu temple on that site, then we cannot treat people of the Islamic faith differently, who are Americans, who are American citizens.”
Despite coming in for heavy criticism, including from some in the Democratic Party, following his Iftar speech earlier this month, Mr. Obama insisted such tolerance was “a core value of our Constitution.” He said it was his job as President to ensure that the U.S. was upholding its Constitution.
He said he had not retracted his position on the mosque issue following criticism. Mr. Obama said:
“I didn't walk it back at all. What I said was I was not endorsing any particular project. I was endorsing our Constitution. And what is right.”
He noted that Muslim Americans had been in uniform fighting in Iraq, some having served over 20 years. “How can you say to them that somehow their religious faith is less worthy of respect under our Constitution and our system of government?” he asked, adding he would defend their right to express their feelings just as fiercely.