The “birther” movement that prompted President Barack Obama to release his long-form birth certificate yesterday is part of a broader attack on civil rights, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told minority legislators in Hartford today.

Jackson slipped into the Legislative Office Building for an unpublicized, closed-door meeting with the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, urging them to be aware of what he described as a burgeoning state’s rights campaign.

“As we travel the country, we are meeting with state legislators because we see a pattern, an attempt to roll back the gains for workers’ rights, civil rights, women’s rights and social justice,” Jackson told The Mirror. “The states’ rights movement is in full blossom.”

Jackson, who was in Hartford to speak to a minority-business group tonight, asked to address the state legislators, said Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, the chairman of the caucus.

While some black leaders have been reluctant to claim deeper meaning in the continuing challenges to the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president, Jackson has not.

“Attacking the president in an unseemly, undignified way is an ugly undercurrent that’s becoming more odorous every day,” Jackson said. “No president has ever faced this much nastiness before.”

Obama was born Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu to a American mother and Kenyan father, as was noted in a shorter, certified version of his birth certificate that was released during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Donald Trump, the celebrity developer and reality-television star, reignited questions over Obama’s citizenship in recent weeks during a publicity tour ostensibly promoting himself as a potential candidate for president.

A CBS/New York Times poll last week found that a majority of Republicans had doubts about whether Obama was born in the U.S.  The White House acted yesterday to put the issue to rest.

“We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers,” Obama said in releasing the official longer form of his birth records.

But Jackson saw the controversy as deeper than the claims of a publicity-hungry TV star.

“The states rights movement is an attempt to make [Obama] and the civil rights movement illegitimate,” Jackson said. “This is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and we’re still torn between ‘a more perfect union’ and states’ rights. All of Dr. King’s victories were over states’ rights, which tried to undermine basic civil rights.”

Holder-Winfield said Jackson’s visit was intended to get the caucus members, who are deep into a legislative session tightly focused on the budget, “to lift our heads off the page” and think more broadly.

“I think that’s what this meeting boils down to,” he said.

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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