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. Joyce, Snoqualmie, WA

    It bothers me that citizens of the United States of America have lost sight of their heritage. Senator Obama is exactly correct: The PLEDGE of Allegiance is when you put your hand over your heart. You SING the National Anthem. I laugh everytime I see people at a baseball game who put their hands over their hearts for the National Anthem but are not singing. But, then they'll stand and belt out God Bless America with their hands over their hearts like it's the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance rolled into one.

    I think all the email addresses circulating this falsehood as if it were true should be required to issue an apology.

    November 8, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. Bill, San Diego, Ca

    This is such a non-issue. If it were that important, we would break out the pictures of the former first lady showing disrespect to the Marines in her days in the White House.

    November 8, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  3. mark, pasadena, ca

    wow, that was the most god-awful version of the national anthem i have ever heard. i'll give obama credit for not covering his ears.

    November 8, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. Hank, Fort Myers, Fl

    Those who may think this is over-reaction. This is a man whoi is planning to lead the entire nation: all people including the veteran's and patriots dead and gone who've shed blood for nothing more than that flag...and the anthem that represents our respect for it. If he cannot gain the respect of those people...many thousands..and their families, he has no hope of ever becoming President. Knowing the sacrifices veterans have numerous wars, and even today–any person man, or woman, who hasn't taken the time to understand this little issue of placing your hand over your heart–demonstrates he's a total jerk and clearly isn't ready to lead those brave people as Commander-In-Chief. Yes, he's handsome, yes, it would be great to have an african-american president–but my loyalty doesn't lie loyalty is with the nation and what is best for it. If can't even adapt to something so fundamental..well he's just too new for me!!! And I believe–thousands of other veterans...of both parties.

    November 8, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  5. Megha, San Antonio, TX

    I absolutely agree with Josh from Chicago on Obama's hypocracy about criticising Hillary for voting on Iran Revolution. If it was that important to Mr. Obama, he'd have been there to vote. But seems like he is willing to reliquish his current job as a Senator to get the Presidency. Granted that other candidates are missing votes too, but he's the worst (80%). Don't you get it people?
    And to all of you who are accusing common people of doing what Obama did in this event, they're not all running for President. As the leader of a country, you are supposed to set standards for others to follow. I like him but he's so inexperienced and seems like a hypocrite now. May be he'll be ready in the next 8 years to run again, I'll vote for him then. But right now we need a strong leader, well respected around the world, Obama isn't that.
    HILLARY '08

    November 8, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. TB, Tampa

    People, people, people...if this is one of Mr. Obama's few mistakes, then at ease...because the correct procedure when the National Anthem is playing or the correct way to stand when saying the pledge of alliance can be taught! How to EFFECTIVELY lead a country and serve the people who the employ you (the voters) can not be taught. What more do you want?? We have had one Clinton how got sexual favors in the oval office and you question this guys moral and patriotism because of his stance?? On the other hand we have Bush dumb ass in office who have caused many families so much heartache because he can't admit he was wrong and again we question Obama's stance?? He is different, he is fresh, and less corrupt by years and years of political programming! Grow up want a man of the people and not someone set in their ways as my grandmother likes to put it! You hate and criticize him now, but you will long for him when we have another political figure in office that we can't trust! Something to think about...

    November 8, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  7. M, VA


    Who cares? Oh, yeah–you overzealous political HACKS who complain about EVERYTHING... that the other guy did.

    This is just another case of opponents playing up controversy. It completely undermines true political discourse.

    November 8, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. Jennifer, Bloomington, IL

    I thought it was more than appropriate to place your hand over your heart for both patriotic activities?!?! Clearly everyone else on that stage thought so.

    November 8, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  9. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    This incident will not affect whether I will or will not support and vote for Senator Obama.

    I prefer to base my vote on substantial issues. To do any less is an insult to all who have served and to the U.S. Constitution.

    November 8, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  10. Carlos, Hawaii

    It seems to me that the real issue is that the American President is supposed to be the role model for all Americans. If he doesn't even know proper etiquette and how to render honors to the flag, then there is a problem. I would think Senators should be role model Americans too. I guess they should teach flag etiquette during Senate 101 class. And by they an active duty military service member, I'm not only honoring the flag...I'm honoring what it represents!

    November 8, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  11. Andrew, Spotsylvania,VA

    Well I go to VMI and here we are taught that in civilian attire to remove all headgear and place our right hand over our hearts when the Anthem is played.
    Way to go Obama.

    November 8, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. John, Des Moines

    Is anyone really surprised?

    November 8, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  13. APK Meadville, PA

    To Josh in Chicago-

    Thank you for responding to my comment about the war in Iraq- a topic that Clinton supporters almost always ignore.

    To be more precise, Senator Clinton voted for the October 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, much to the pleasure of George W Bush and Dick Cheney.

    About half of the Senate Dems voted for it also, but maybe if Mrs. Clinton used her star power to speak out against it, they might have followed her.

    She refuses to apologize for it.

    If that's not a big deal to you, fine- I know what my priorities are in this election.

    I'm not going to talk about flag pins and anthems when thousands of our brave soldiers have been lost in a war that shouldn't have been approved.

    November 8, 2007 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. Jim-Pittsburgh, PA

    Well said Terry from El Paso, TX!!! Well Said!

    November 8, 2007 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  15. Joakim

    I'm amazed sad and dumbfounded that this a story at all. Is empty gestures all that matters? If so – vote for the best actor in the next election.

    November 8, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  16. Jimmy Chappell, Midland, Tx.

    And if you look even closer, you will notice in the flower pot, a muzzle blast, It must be badgeman. So this is proof that Lee Harvey did not act alone in Dallas!

    November 8, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. Beto, Seattle

    Your picture more appropriately shows 4 people standing before Old Glory, 1 negro, 1 hispanic, and 2 anglo women. A picture of what a diverse place America is. It's a shame that CNN chose to open a discussion is on where their hands are. Too bad so many people have chosen to get in on the idiocy.

    November 8, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  18. Daniel S. Cedar City UT

    Whether or not it was the National Anthem or The Pledge of Alligence or between the two. Look at everyone else, then look at him. As a Veteran I think any person running for President better dang well know when to show respect to the flag he/she now desires to represent. Showing "over-respect" is never critized, while not showing enough is wrong!!!

    November 8, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  19. Roland, Sierra Vista AZ

    So what part of the picture is not true?

    November 8, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  20. Irene, Cedar Rapids

    Joe Biden 2008! Because we need a candidate who understands how to restore credibility. Starting by honoring our own values.

    November 8, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  21. Richard, West Palm Beach, FL

    "Why is this a dirty trick? The picture is valid, real, and accurate." It was a dirty trick because people without integrity lied and said that it was during the Pledge of Allegiance. The picture was accurate, it was the lies passed on with it that were a dirty trick.

    It is impressive that so many people who didn't know the "rules" for the playing of our National Anthem and have actually looked them up. The reality is that a huge number of people are not aware of the "rules" and believe that they sincerely honor our flag by standing at attention.

    Those that don't care about the truth will not be interested in knowing that film shows Obama sang along the whole time and applauded at the end. You'd have to be a complete moron to think that anyone would seriously run for the presidency and refuse to take the Pledge of Allegiance.

    For those who get easily confused, his name is not Obama bin Laden. You have him confused with the person who caused 9/11 and is "not really concerned about" by Bush.

    "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
    - George W. Bush,President 08/05/04

    November 8, 2007 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  22. L. Madria

    I am going to enjoy watching the liberals rip each others guts out.

    November 8, 2007 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. Steve in SC

    This is not a disqualifier unless it becomes habit! He should should know by now a little something about public perception! The flag is indeed saluted during the National Anthem. It is all about respect. Get used to it if you want to be Commander In Chief! I am surprised that this wasn't reviewed as a newbie Senator. As a Senator you represent your State. To the world you represent all of us!

    November 8, 2007 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  24. Cathy Turner, Olathe, KS

    Obama is still wrong. Whether the Pledge of Allegiance or the playing of the National Anthem, respect should be shown at both by covering your heart with your right hand. Too many people do not show respect during the National Anthem. As a possible Presidential candidate he should know the protocol.

    November 8, 2007 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  25. Denny Poniatowski, Naperville, IL

    The left eye sees one view while the right eye sees another.

    November 8, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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