PHOENIX - Secretary of State Ken Bennett has waded into the controversy over the president's birthplace again.

But not in the way some have charged.

"I actually think he was born in Hawaii," Bennett told a group of Republicans last week, explaining his efforts to verify that state has a birth certificate on file for Obama. Bennett said he felt that his role as the state's chief elections officer entitled him to make such a query.

But Bennett said that does not mean the public is getting the whole story.

"I actually think he was fibbing about being born in Kenya when he was trying to get into college and doing things like writing a book, and on and on," Bennett told his audience. "So if there was weird stuff going on, I actually think it was happening back in his college days."

The comments came as Bennett was trying to round up support for Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney. Bennett chairs Romney's Arizona campaign efforts.

Asked about the comments, which were videotaped by an audience member, Bennett said he was only speculating. And he noted that he used the word "if" a couple of times when talking about the "fibbing" and why he believes the president when he says now he was born in Hawaii.

But he did not include such conditional speculation on everything, he said.

"I think he has spent $1.5 or $2 million through attorneys to have all the college records and all that stuff sealed," Bennett continued. "So if you're spending money to seal something, that's probably where the hanky-panky was going on."

"But I have no knowledge," Bennett said later to Capitol Media Services. That, however, still leaves the flat-out statement about the money Obama has spent to have his records sealed.

"That's part of the speculation that I hear," Bennett said. Pressed for how he came up with those specific numbers, he responded, "I don't know where I heard that."

The closest thing to Bennett's comments stem from an effort by a literary agent for Obama in 1991 to promote the Harvard law school graduate as a writer, listing him as "born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii." An assistant who worked at the agency at the time has since called it "a fact-checking error by me."

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