Coffman won't explain Obama 'not an American' comments

9NEWS Reporter Kyle Clark approached Coffman outside a closed door fundraiser Tuesday night after the Coffman campaign ignored several requests over several days to schedule an interview with the congressman.

Coffman reiterated that he misspoke and apologized, but would not elaborate. Coffman offered the same one-line explanation to every question asked, including when he was asked if he would answer any question with a different response.

Coffman had steadfastly refused to speak on camera regarding his May 12th comment at a fundraiser in Elbert County. The comments, recorded and posted online by a Coffman supporter, were first aired by 9NEWS.

"I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don't know that," Coffman told donors. "But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."

Informed that the comments were recorded, the Coffman campaign issued a written statement.

"I misspoke and I apologize. I have confidence in President Obama's citizenship and legitimacy as President of the United States," the statement read. "I don't believe the President shares my belief in American Exceptionalism. His policies reflect a philosophy that America is but one nation among many equals," the statement read. "As a Marine, I believe America is unique and based on a core set of principles that make it superior to other nations."

The House of Representatives is on a recess and Coffman has been lying low. On Saturday, he did not show up as expected to an event in Aurora, instead sending an aide who read a statement saying the congressman was sick. Constituents calling Coffman's district office have been told he has no public meetings or appearances during the recess.

The low-profile is a departure for the typically-accessible Coffman, who has appeared on 9NEWS (often at his request) sixteen times over the last twelve months, discussing topics as varied as payroll taxes, wildfire mitigation and the importance of Memorial Day.

When 9NEWS was unable to schedule an interview with Coffman, Reporter Kyle Clark approached him in public.

Their conversation, in its entirety, was as follows:

KYLE CLARK: Congressman Coffman, how are you?

REP. COFFMAN: How are you doing? Good to see you.

KYLE CLARK: Good to see you. You're a tough man to find lately.


KYLE CLARK: Can we chat quickly before you go inside?


KYLE CLARK: Alright, fantastic. Why don't we head right over here so we're out of the way. Thank you for your time. I apologize for showing up unannounced. I've been trying to call your staff. They won't return my phone calls. Let me ask you, after your comments about the President, do you feel voters are owed a better explanation than just, I misspoke?

REP. COFFMAN: I think that... Umm... I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: OK. And who were you apologizing to?

REP. COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: I apologize, we talk to you all the time, you're a very forthcoming guy. Who's telling you not to talk and to handle it like this?

REP. COFFMAN: I stand by my statement, that I wrote, that you have, and I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Was it that you thought it would go over well in Elbert County where folks are very conservative and you'd never say something like that in the suburbs?

REP. COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Is there anything I can ask you that you'll answer differently?

REP. COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Thank you, congressman.

REP. COFFMAN: Thank you.

9NEWS Political Analyst Floyd Ciruli says Coffman is trapped between apologizing further and antagonizing his conservative base, or digging in and alienating the unaffiliated voters who now make up a third of his newly-competitive redrawn district.

"Clearly he was given the advice by his top funders and best advisors to say nothing," Ciruli said. "The strategy of silence is extremely difficult to pull off."

"It looks like you're hiding," Ciruli said. "It looks defensive. It makes you look vulnerable."

Just how vulnerable Coffman is remains to be seen. He holds a substantial fundraising edge over his Democratic opponent, State Representative Joe Miklosi. But local and national Democrats have been fundraising off of his remarks, attempting to tie him to the birther movement.


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