December 18th, 2007
07:15 AM ET
11 years ago

Former senator: Obama's Muslim roots 'a substantial strength'

Watch former Sen. Kerrey's interview in the Situation Room Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former senator Bob Kerrey, D-Nebraska, told CNN Monday that Sen. Barack Obama’s Muslim ancestry would add value in conducting American foreign policy if Obama wins the White House.

Obama is Christian but his father was Muslim as is his paternal grandmother and Obama lived in Indonesia, a Muslim country, early in his childhood.

While Kerrey acknowledged “there is a smear campaign going on,” in an effort to use Obama’s background against him, Kerrey told CNN’s John King “I feel it’s actually a substantial strength.” “That connection to Indonesia and a billion Muslims on this Earth, I think is a real strength,” explained Kerrey.

The former senator, who has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, also said that “as an African-American,” Obama “can speak in an authentic way to underperforming black youth who I think will follow his example.”

Kerrey spoke with John King Monday on The Situation Room.

Watch Kerrey's entire interview.

–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Faith • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. TD, Garland, TX

    Obama does not have "Muslim roots."

    Way to help spread the whisper campaign through an astoundingly misleading headline, Ticker.

    December 18, 2007 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  2. Christian, Tampa FL

    I couldn't agree more. Obama's personal and familial diversity could be a great asset when he conducts relations with foreign leaders.

    December 18, 2007 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  3. Josh, Buffalo-NY

    I'm happy someone finally sees that his "islamic heritage" may be a strength and not a weakness.

    December 18, 2007 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  4. L Hamilton

    "The most awful assumption made here is that because Indonesia is a predominately Muslim country is that they speak Arabic and would even refer to a school as a madrassa.

    Indonesians speak the Indonesian language

    the translation for primary school is

    Sekolah dasar

    So the use of Madrassa to Obama's school is 100% Invalid because it was not in an Arabic country."

    December 18, 2007 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  5. Major Man, Petersburg, VA

    Seems like the Clinton campaign has moved from the Politics of Planting 101 (Questions)... to the Politics of Planting 102 (Seeds of doubt).

    Unbelievable! Yet, another misleading story headline to push the FALSE story that Sen. Obama is a Muslim.

    This is shameful for CNN to push this story.

    December 18, 2007 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  6. Jennifer, Madison, WI

    You mean the "former Senator" who just endorsed Hillary Clinton right?

    Hillary's surrogates would never want to place fear into the voters of Iowa or New Hampshire.

    The former Senator, Bob Kerrey, is just "happy" for Obama and wanted to remind everyone of how Muslim he is and his middle name is Hussein right?

    Not buying this smear campaign by the Clintons. Obama is the best choice for 2008.

    December 18, 2007 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  7. dig lincoln nebraska

    What ever happened to the crusades where christans beheaded millions of people...Has anyone listened to the christan leadership talk or any any any of the figureheads and politicans..They would love to start crucifying anyone who dosnt believe what they believe if we would let them, i dont think theres any doubt they would love to start beheading people if they could get away with it...Obama and his muslim roots are just making the christans thirsty for the good old days...Start trashing him not will save them the trouble later of giving a potentially large chunk of pissed off muslims in this country someone to believe in...Im glad we shift races to hate every once and awhile...Variety is the spice of life

    December 18, 2007 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  8. Evan, Roseburg OR

    Wouldn't it be refreshing to have a president who has personal experience with Muslims, and foreign countries in general. Honestly, after these last 7 years, I'd be happy with someone who knows basic geography. I can't wait for a day when our president will know the difference between a nation and a continent.

    December 18, 2007 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  9. Lynn, Reno

    Yeah, this is another smear job.. Kerrey used the word madrassa... instead of a public school. His father was a religious skeptic, not a practicing Muslim. That is not innocent. I just am so fed up. Why don't they criticize his policies or his record... why stoop so low to use Karl Rove tactics? It's just disgusting. Clinton is becoming the caricature that the Republicans had created of her.

    December 18, 2007 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  10. LinnieFB, Corona CA

    We know what Kerrey is doing and he should be ashamed of himself! How low will these Clintonistas sink....

    Wow...these guys would have derailed Moses as the leader of God's people because he was raised by Pharoah's sister.

    They know Obama wasn't raised by his father. They know Obama is a Christian. But, the worst part is, this Clinton gang is playing the dirty, divisive, politics they accuse the Republicans of playing.

    Add Kerrey & the Clinton's to the list of Democrats who are holding the country back!

    December 18, 2007 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  11. austinfd

    Obama “can speak in an authentic way to underperforming black youth who I think will follow his example.”

    what a good way to endear yourself to that part of the electorate, Mr. Kerrey...

    And why on earth would you endorse Clinton, but then make statements like this that seem to support another candidate?

    December 18, 2007 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  12. NoPatience4StupidAdults

    What the hell is "Muslim ancestry"?

    December 18, 2007 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  13. Pedro, Las Vegas, NV

    CNN is trying it's very best to say it without saying it... This article is laden with innuendo and subtle FOX News-style accusations. "Obama is Christian but his father was Muslim as is his paternal grandmother and Obama lived in Indonesia, a Muslim country, early in his childhood." - Note the emphasis on the word Muslim... It's fairly transparent, though what else could one expect from the Clinton News Network?

    December 18, 2007 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  14. Jaik , chicago, IL

    Here is CNN trying to smear Obama again by raisiing this muslim garbage again.

    December 18, 2007 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  15. Diamond, Bradenton, FL

    Kerrey makes a good argument for Obama's strength. Please let's not miunderstand him. The difference between his comments and those of Shaheen and like Daylight and darkness.

    OBAMA '08.

    December 18, 2007 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  16. Vincent Onditi, La Seyne Sur Mer, France

    What this Former senator Bob Kerrey, D-Nebraska deliberately ignores is the fact that, Barack was two years old when his father "Barack Hussein Obama", left him and his mother, Barack never met nor lived with his fathers's muslim parents all his childhood and adulthood life. Barack is a born again christian.His name was given to him by his father, not as a baptism but as a family name.

    December 18, 2007 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  17. Danile6 , Post Me North Dakota

    Ugh no bob your dumb. I wouldnt trade "roots: for the hands on respect Joe Biden has earned through out the world. Thats a measure of leadership. Not your releigious ancestry.

    December 18, 2007 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  18. Jake NH

    We the voters disagree!

    December 18, 2007 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  19. Hillarylover - SA

    I don't agree with Kerrey. Most people will never forget what happened on 911. Sorry but it is true. Guilt by association. When we think of that day. We think Muslims radicals. As far as Obama being a role model for black youth. I don't know on that one. Should we go back to his youth?

    December 18, 2007 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  20. Nathaniel Mounce, Somerset, Ky

    Hm, very interesting.
    I think it has a possible point.
    However, will these foreign countries like that he is American and is a Christian nonetheless?

    December 18, 2007 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  21. Walt, Belton, TX

    An indorsement by Kerry is like a french kiss from your Grandmother.

    December 18, 2007 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  22. Michelle, AL

    This is a very cute way to get Obama's name and the word Muslim in the same sentence without accusing him of being one. While I am the last person on earth who wants Obama to be President, I still find this amusing.. a Clinton supporter saying oh yeah, this guy has a Muslim background, that'll be useful!

    Talk about a backhanded compliment.

    December 18, 2007 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  23. Humor of the Hour Live from the Campaign Trail

    QUESTION TO FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON "Hey Bill, why do many of your former foreign policy advisors back Obama over your wife?"

    ANSWER: "Probably because they've been out of a job for so long that they've run out of unemployment - and Hillary wants all fresh new faces."

    December 18, 2007 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  24. Rollin, Miami, Florida


    I was surprised by this article until
    i saw this guy supported Clinton.

    The point is to link Obama with Muslims and "underperforming black youth," topics which have historically not played well in the minds and psyche of middle America.

    These guys are just awful. Minor but effective smear that Obama will have a hard time fighting without alienating those groups to which he is being linked.

    December 18, 2007 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  25. Brad, from the great state of Texas

    This is BS, in my opinion– all those Muslims around the world that hate us would overlook Obama's ancestry and focus more on his current beliefs. And the comment about "underperforming black youth" needing a role model is ridiculous– there are plenty of successful black people in American culture for youngsters to look up to, such as Bill Cosby and Oprah. Neither one of these reasons seems sufficient enough to elect someone as inexperienced as Obama. Let's look at the big picture when electing a candidate, shall we?

    December 18, 2007 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
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