Marty McClendon, who is running as a Republican for lieutenant governor, briefly became embroiled in his own birther controversy this week after he didn’t immediately denounce comments questioning the citizenship of his Democratic opponent.
McClendon, a conservative radio host from Gig Harbor, was speaking at a pro-gun rally at the state Capitol last Saturday when he mentioned how Cyrus Habib had received a failing grade from the National Rifle Association.
In response, someone from the crowd shouted, “Is he legal?” referencing Habib, who is Iranian-American.
McClendon responded: “I know, right.”
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Another person shortly afterward yelled, “What about his birth certificate?” and McClendon responded, “Right, I don’t know. We’re all in this together.”
Habib, a 34-year-old state senator who previously served in the state House, is a U.S. citizen who was born in Baltimore.
The Huffington Post picked up on McClendon’s comments, with a headline labeling the incident as “trickle-down birtherism” — a reference to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who early in his political career repeatedly questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States.
Trump recently acknowledged Obama’s citizenship and said there was no truth to claims to the contrary.
On Friday, McClendon told Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network that he didn’t doubt that Habib was a U.S. citizen, either.
“Absolutely not,” McClendon said. “I have no concerns about that whatsoever.”
McClendon told Jenkins that he was trying to ignore the crowd’s comments, which is why he didn’t address them in the moment.
“Most of the time I just shrug that kind of stuff off, you hear silly stuff you’re like ‘OK whatever’ and you kind of move on and try not to give any credence to it,” McClendon told the radio network.
The comments from the crowd at the rally and McClendon’s responses were captured on video and posted to YouTube. The exchange begins at about the 8-minute, 49-second mark.