"Within our party, we've got to be very careful about allowing these people who are the birthers and the 9/11-deniers to get too high a profile and say too much without setting the record straight," Rove said.
Birthers believe Obama is not native-born and therefore is ineligible to be president. Hawaii officials have repeatedly issued statements that Obama was born in the state and that the health department holds a copy of his original birth certificate. A copy of the document has been made available on the Internet.
Rove compared the movement to fringe Republican groups in the 1950s like the John Birch Society, saying that "it took Bill Buckley standing up as a strong conservative and taking them on."
Rove dismissed as "lousy" a recent Public Policy Polling survey that found that 51 percent of those likely to vote in a GOP primary doubted the president's citizenship.
He suggested that Republican candidates could be hurt when asked about the birther question on a national stage such as during campaign debates.
"If they'd step forward and say 'Look, we've got better things to talk about, then to fall into this trap that the White House has laid for us,' this issue will start to go away," Rove said.
At least one prominent Republican and potential presidential candidate isn't ready to take Rove's advice. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a tea party favorite, said Thursday she thought the president should be taken "at his word" about whether he was born in the U.S. -- but stopped short of saying that she believed he was a citizen.
"Can you just state very clearly that President Obama is a Christian and he is a citizen of the United States?" George Stephanopoulos asked Bachmann on "Good Morning America."
"Well that isn't for me to state, that is for the president to state," Bachmann replied.
Watch the Rove exchange with O'Reilly, courtesy The Hill:
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