November 8th, 2007
04:40 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama calls Internet accusation a 'dirty trick'

Watch a clip from Sen. Harkin's steak fry in Iowa last September.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday he is frustrated over the circulation of an e-mail that claims the Illinois senator refused to place his hand on his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.

"This is so irritating," Obama said in response to a question about the claim at a town-hall event in Burlington, Iowa. "My grandfather taught me how to say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was one or two."

The e-mail in question shows a photo of Obama, as well as rival candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson during Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's steak fry in September. Harkin's wife, Ruth, is also pictured. Richardson, Clinton, and Harkin all have their right hands on their heart while Obama's hands are at his sides.

The e-mail goes on to say Obama "refused to not only put his hand on his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, but refused to say the pledge."

Obama told the questioner the picture was actually taken during a playing of the national anthem and said, "During the Pledge of Allegiance you put your hand over your heart, during the National Anthem you sing."

"This is the classic dirty trick of the campaign," Obama said later Wednesday at an event in Cedar Rapids.

Related video: Watch Sen. Obama respond to the e-mail accusation.

- CNN's Dugald McConnell contributed to this report

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa • South Carolina
soundoff (349 Responses)
  1. Rachel, Santa Rosa CA

    I am so tired of all these stupid stories...
    "Obama didn't wear a flag pin!!!" OH NO!

    Come on, there are more important issues to be discussed.

    November 8, 2007 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Greg Sampson Ventura, CA

    Obama..said, "..during the National Anthem you sing."

    Actually you are supposed to place
    your right hand over your heart, unless you are military in which case you salute. Sininging is optional, as usually the national anthem is sung by one person. The reason for the placing of one's hand over one's heart is out of difference or respect, for the symbol of the flag, a symbol of our nation, which is prominently displayed during the National Anthem. tell you I don't know who taught Obama, but he is WRONG.

    November 8, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Sam, Liincoln, NE

    Obviously Obama is mistaken about where one is supposed to place their hands during the playing or singing of the national anthem. That said, this is a nonissue and it's despicable that anyone would sink so low as to question the Senator's patriotism.

    This is another urban legend that will make the rounds along with the earlier untrue claim that Obama is a Muslim and used a Qoran to take the oath of office.

    I wonder who started circulating this e-mail? It has all the earmarks of a Republican smear machine attack but I wouldn't be too surprised if we found that it came from a rogue staffer in Hillary Clinton's campaign either.

    November 8, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. Patrick, San Antonio TX

    The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem
    The pledge of allegiance should be rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and saluting.
    When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise to the music.

    November 8, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Brian Tampa

    You place your hand over your heart and face the flag during the anthem. I guess they didn't teach him that in Indonesia.

    November 8, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Greg, NY, NY

    Actually, as you can see in the picture, Hillary is looking over at Bill for what she is supposed to do.

    You can almost hear what she is thinking, "Like this, Bill? Ok, just checking."

    November 8, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Ron, TX

    Is this really the MOST DIRT they can dig up on Obama? He doesn't put his hand over his heart during the national anthem? The Republicans will go down hard if that's all they got. With Hillary, they have enough dirt to fill the Grand Canyon. Obama- "we once saw him buying TWO BOTTLES of cough syrup!" Hillary- "we saw her buying fifty bottles of cough syrup, with a strange Chinese fellow who paid for everything, and gave $2,000 cash back to Hillary)

    I don't know -anybody- who puts their hand over their heart for the anthem... ever been to a baseball game? haha Maybe every fifth person might... geez.

    November 8, 2007 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. Joe, San Antonio, TX

    I'm a Hillary supporter, but I, too, think we need to focus on other things. Is this really what we want to focus on, geez.

    November 8, 2007 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Sean, Detroit, MI

    I love all of this over-emphasis on the symbolic aspects of "patriotism". How about those people who put their hand over their heart, salute the flag, wear the little US flag pin on their lapel, and proceed to act in the most un-American ways possible? Bush has pissed on the Constitution, cost us thousands of young lives, and smeared our image in the eyes of nations around the world. But, since he talks tough and wears a little flag on his lapel, he's "patriotic".

    November 8, 2007 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. Megha, San Antonio, TX

    "Obama told the questioner, "During the Pledge of Allegiance you put your hand over your heart, during the National Anthem you sing."
    The House Sergeant at Arms confirms that it is U.S. code for the right hand to be placed over the heart during the playing of the National Anthem.

    It's ok guys, he will learn soon. He's hoping that by Nov next year, he will learn how to respect the flag, practice what he preaches and also run the country. Why can't we let him try? Didn't we let Bush try? Oh that's right, beacause the country can't afford any more newbies trying to run the country with the false package of uniting it. Hillary 08'

    November 8, 2007 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  11. Steve Blaine Washington

    Actually from what you can see in picture you have twow people including Clinton with their hands over their heart and looking at the flag to their
    right and two people with the flag in back of them. One person has his hand over his heart and the other person Obama facing forward with his hands
    folder together below the belt.

    November 8, 2007 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. Robert Smith, Cabot, AR

    Didn't matter if it was the Pledge or the Anthem. You are paying your respect to our Country and the sacrifices of those who came before.

    November 8, 2007 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  13. Ryan, New York, NY

    I wonder if the same people complaining about this are the ones who cheer after the National Anthem at every sporting event, which if you were unaware, isn't proper etiquette.

    When it is played at a public assembly you should join in singing the National Anthem along with principal singer or orchestra whose function is to lead, not entertain, the assembly. For this reason it is inappropriate to applaud the singing of the National Anthem. It is also inappropriate to make or use sophisticated "concert" versions of the National Anthem.

    November 8, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  14. Mark, Philadelphia, PA

    Maybe if he had served his country in the military, he would know such basic flag etiquette.

    November 8, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  15. Kathy Piazza

    One shouldn't be judged as to where they place their hands during the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem but judged where their heart is. Obama's heart is in the right place.

    November 8, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  16. Benjamin Arnold of Kent, WA

    The House Sergeant of Arms is incorrect about the 'code for placing the right hand over the Heart during the National Anthem.' As it stands, the only codes for the national anthem are as follows: All persons face the flag if present or the performer, all hats removed, and all military, emergency response, law enforcement, and Scouts (Girl or Boy) holding a salute from first note to last. Civilians (including politicians) are not required, nor is there any official code for them to hold their hands over their heart.

    The Sergeant House of Arms needs to do a little research instead of speaking out of patriotism. Patriots know the codes, they don't make them up.

    November 8, 2007 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  17. Andrew, Torrance, California

    Haha. Senator Obama just can't get a break. 🙂 He is his own worst enemy.

    I mean this basically stops cold his momentum coming out of the recent debate where Senator Clinton stumbled.

    I mean seriously... A US Senator who didn't know US law... He obviously didn't know it because his response was in such a way that he assumed that it wasn't necessarily to put your hand over your heart. He tried to attack Senator Clinton with a dirty underhanded attack about how she can't sing and got himself into his mess. It's karma dude! 🙂

    November 8, 2007 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  18. Billy Jax,FL

    What a great president and role model he will be for the next generation of liberal anti-Americans. Whats next, flying the Iranian flag at the White House?

    November 8, 2007 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  19. Michael Guinn, Port Hueneme, CA

    Someone has WAY too much time on their hands! This is typical smear campaign tactics and it comes at a time when Barack is making progress in the polls. Come on folks- the real Barack Obama can be checked out at He's a winner and we have HOPE!

    November 8, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  20. Don Macleod, Marietta, GA

    Perhaps someone could inform Mr. Obama about correctly rendering honors during the National Anthem.

    During the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, American citizens not in uniform will stand at the position of attention with their right hands over their hearts. Gentlemen wearing hats will remove them and place them over their hearts.

    This guy wants to be Commander in Chief and has not even learned the courtesies that applicants for naturalization are required to learn. Shame on him.

    November 8, 2007 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  21. AJ, Chicago IL

    I can't count the number of times I've been to sporting events from High school to Profession sports and have observed most people not holding their hands over their hearts during National Anthem. Dare I say that all of those Americans are not patriotic. Of course its non-sense! Bill Clinton should take note, this article represents an example of "swift-boating" Obama!

    OBAMA in '08!

    November 8, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Randy Hurst San Francisco, California 94121

    Obama is like the rest of us. If it has anything to do with Bush, we don't know which to grab first.

    November 8, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. Stix, San Angelo, Tx

    Obama is an idiot. Everywhere I have been in our great country, everyone not only sings the national anthem but they ALSO plach their hand over their heart..........unless they are wanting to be rude & disrespectful

    November 8, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. AC in Algonac

    Sometimes people make mistakes. It's a shame that wearing a pin on your lapel, or holding your hand over your heart, is the determining factor in whether or not you're patriotic or able to lead the country. Ok, so I'm sure W can and does those aforementioned things and, well, I don't think he can run this country...

    November 8, 2007 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  25. Lisa, Germantown, MDs

    If Obama was wrong about this, then so are 99% of the Americans at every sporting event on TV. I don't seem most of them with their hands on their hearts or facing the flag. They must all be terrorists.

    November 8, 2007 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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