Mike Huckabee said Tuesday night he "misspoke" when he said President Obama grew up in Kenya rather than Indonesia in a response to a question on a radio talk show, inadvertently refueling the fire over the president's birth certificate.
"I simply misspoke when I alluded to President Obama growing up in Kenya and meant to say Indonesia," Huckabee said about his Monday appearance on Steve Malzberg's radio show on New York's WOR Radio.
"As I have stated on page one of my new book 'A Simple Government' and in numerous interviews with dozens of reporters -- I don't believe there is an issue with Barack Obama's birth certificate. However, I do believe there are serious issues with the president's policies, and I have been openly opposed to the president's world view," he said in the statement released by his political action committee HuckPAC.
Huckabee, who on Wednesday reached the top of a new poll on possible GOP presidential candidates, dismissed attempts to "sensationalize" his remarks.
Obama was born in Hawaii to an American mother and Kenyan father who was largely absent from his life. When Obama was a child, his mother remarried an Indonesian man, and the family moved to the Southeast Asian nation for several years.
Huckabee has repeatedly defended Obama against "birther" theorists who question whether the 44th president was born in the United States or whether he was born abroad, which would make him constitutionally illegitimate. Huckabee has denounced such criticisms in the past as "nonsense."
During the interview Malzberg brought up the "birther" questions with Huckabee, asking the former Arkansas governor if "we deserve to know more about this man?"
"We don't have a birth certificate, why Mr. Obama did you spend millions of dollars all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate?" Malzberg said.
Huckabee at first seemed to defuse the question.
"I would love to know more about this man, but what I do know is troubling enough," Huckabee responded. "But one thing I do know: his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, is very different than the average American."
"His perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father, and Kenyan grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists that persecuted his grandfather."
"He despises the West, he despises the British and he can take it all out on Israel," Malzberg said, almost yelling.
Liberal critics jumped on the Fox News host.
"Huckabee wants to appear sane, so he can't be a birther. But he probably doesn't want to lose the birther vote either, since a big part of his base believes the birther conspiracy," a blogger at Mother Jones wrote.
"In his ugly pursuit of those votes he has now fallen below the already low standard for integrity that we have come to expect from former governors of Arkansas," MSNBC's anchor Lawrence O'Donnell said Tuesday.
In an interview just last week, Huckabee criticized the" birther" charges as a "waste" and "nonsense".
"If there was any shred of truth to it, Hillary Clinton and her wonderful investigative opposition research machine would have found it and would have used it," Huckabee told ABC News. "For Republicans to even be bringing it up, I think it's a waste of energy and time."
On Wednesday, a new poll released by Winthrop University showed that Huckabee is the overwhelming favorite among Republican voters in the southern states, including Florida. According to the news release, Huckabee, who is running at or near the top in most polling, easily eclipsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich 22.9 percet to 12.9 percent.
In the poll, taken between Feb. 21 and Feb. 27 among voters 18 years and older from 11 Southern states, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin garnered 8.7 percent while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney edged out former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty 6.9 percent to 6.2 percent.
After winning the Iowa caucuses in 2008, Huckabee went on to win the majority of the Southern primaries, coming in second to eventual GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He hasn't said whether or not he will run in 2012.
The former Arkansas governor is a host of the Fox News Channel show, 'Huckabee', on Saturday and Sunday nights.