WASHINGTON, D.C. — Conservative activist Ralph Reed, who runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said on Friday that "it isn't enough to be anti-Obama," and dismissed the fringe elements of his party, despite answering a birther question during a breakout session.
A Faith and Freedom Conference attendee named Robert Dickstein asked Reed why conservatives don't go harder on Obama, saying "his birth certificate which is clearly fraudulent, they never mention that allegedly he's had homosexual affairs, where drugs were involved, his whole Columbia situation is as vague as anything" and "even his name is a phony, his real name is Barry Sotero."
Reed nodded slightly throughout Dickstein's question, but said he disagrees.
"I think he was born in the United States," Reed said.
"Allow me to, as your friend, and I mean this in that spirit, to disabuse you of the notion that there is something about Jeremiah Wright or Bill Ayers or his personal life that's going to win this election," Reed continued. "It's not going to happen."
Asked about the exchange later, Reed said he didn't think that extremists would be an important part of this election cycle.
"Well, I don't really think it's a significant number of voters," Reed said. "I don't think it was an issue in 2008 and I don't think it'll be an important issue in 2012."
"I think social issues are in play, but not Obama's birth certificate," Reed said.
The roster for Reed's conference doesn't include some of the more controversial voices that other conservative get-togethers — like the Values Voter Summit or, to a lesser extent, the Conservative Political Action Conference, which this year featured a panel with white nationalists — though Reed was careful to say that he wasn't in the business of excluding anyone.
"I've been doing this for many many years, and I've been doing conferences and seminars and training workshops," Reed said. "We invite folks that we think highly of and have a high opinion of and think that would be effective at organizing folks. I don't know it's so much that we're excluding anybody else."
"You have to find a way to put your agenda forward in a way that attracts people," Reed said.
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.