PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio came under new criticism Friday from a political rival for his investigation of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
Arpaio has long questioned Obama’s citizenship and launched an investigation in 2012 that remained open as late as two months ago. Last year, Arpaio told CNN that he believes Obama’s birth certificate is fraudulent.
“I don’t care where he was born,” Arpaio told the network. “I’m talking about a fraudulent government document — a birth certificate that seems to be a violation of the law.”
Paul Penzone, his Democratic opponent in the November election, said the investigation is nonsense and a waste of resources.
Arpaio defended the investigation by saying people in the county had requested it.
Penzone has attacked Arpaio over the same issue in the past. During the 2012 election — which he lost to Arpaio — Penzone ran an ad claiming the investigation into the birth certificate was nothing more than a political ploy.
Arpaio’s campaign manager Chad Willems and the sheriff’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The scrutiny of Arpaio came as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump relented on his long-running claim that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” Trump said in a Washington, D.C. speech on Friday.
Trump had been a proponent of the birther idea — that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore should never have been elected to the presidency — since at least 2011.
Trump didn’t say what led to the switch of his opinion but he blamed his rival for the White House, Hillary Clinton, for starting the rumor during her failed 2008 Democratic presidential campaign.
Clinton’s campaign responded quickly. Manager Robby Mooks called Trump’s actions, “disgraceful.”
Paul Penzone is a frequent guest on KTAR News 92.3 FM and an author on KTAR.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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