January 23rd, 2008
10:15 AM ET
14 years ago

Obama battles Muslim rumor head-on

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/22/art.obamaemail.ap.jpg caption=" Obama is stepping up his efforts to beat back a false e-mail rumor."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democrat Barack Obama stepped up his efforts Tuesday to battle back against e-mails that falsely label him a Muslim, telling an interviewer the ongoing rumors were part of a "systematic political strategy."

"I think it's very important for people not to buy into the kinds of dirty tricks that we've become so accustomed to in our politics, and people need to understand I'm not and never have been of the Muslim faith," he told CBN's David Brody.

Related video: Obama confronts Muslim rumors

In e-mail messages that have been circulating as long as Obama has been a presidential candidate, the Illinois senator is said be a Muslim who refuses to recite the pledge of allegiance, and one who "joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background." In fact, Obama has never been a Muslim.

"I think that those who are of the Muslim faith are deserving of respect and dignity, but to try and feed into this fear-mongering and try to question my faith commitments and my belief in Jesus Christ, I think is offensive," Obama also said. "And I want to make sure that people are absolutely clear about what's going on with this, and if they get another one of these e-mails that they're deleting it and letting their friends know that it's nonsense."

Obama did not hypothesize who was behind the e-mails, but noted, "somehow they appear magically wherever the next primary or caucus is."

His comments are the latest in a heightened effort to beat back the Internet rumors ahead of South Carolina's Democratic primary Saturday.

In recent days, his campaign has launched a TV ad that quotes his now-famous 2004 speech in which he said, "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes.” And in a new mailer to South Carolina Democrats – the latest in a months-long series of religious-themed messages in the state - Obama is called a "Committed Christian," who "felt a beckoning of the spirit and accepted Jesus Christ into his life." The mailer pictures the senator standing behind a pulpit, with an organ and a cross in the background.

soundoff (427 Responses)
  1. Peter

    To Kirsten in fredricksburg, the difference is this. No one was questioning Huckabee's faith. His ad was a gratuitous attempt to garner the support of christian conservatives. In Obama's case, his faith is being questioned with falsehoods, and he has every right to defend against it. If people were spreading falsehoods about you, would you not do your best to correct the impression? Obama is not trying to push his belief on others. He is trying to correct the falsehoods being spread about him. If you believe in truth, then support him in this. If you believe that the spreading of lies is fine, then do nothing.

    January 22, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  2. Connie

    There needs to be a test of intelligence before you are able to vote. People only want to believe rumors and are too lazy to do research and find out the truth.

    Let's get religion OUT of the race and pick the best qualified candidate.

    January 22, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  3. Scientific

    Sitara, the "so what" can be encapsulated in three things – a) it's not true, and should be corrected, b) the e-mail's clearly trying to feed off anti-Muslim xenophobia in the U.S., and c) he may feel that his faith in Jesus Christ is being questioned, something I myself would not tolerate, either. I hope he moves on soon, however – too much time can be spent defending yourself, and the person spreading that e-mail knows as much.

    January 22, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  4. Latrelle Fenster

    Senator Obama has an entire christian church that can overwhelmingly vouch for him on this issue, and no political smear tactic is going to change that. He's stabbing off these vicious lies from his competitors, and I applaud that wholeheartedly. It doesn't take a rocket scientist too see that he's being unjustly attacked! Obama will persevere and keep trucking along until he's in the whitehouse by a very large group of smart, distingushed and special people in this country who want him there. In other words, the intelligent voters of america!

    January 22, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  5. LeeAnn N. Taylor, San Francisco, Ca

    What else do you expect him to say?

    January 22, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  6. acspore

    This malacious rumor has been on the internet boards such as Craigslist not long after he announced his candidacy. On these boards, it's almost always spread by racist whites or rightwing jerks, so I don't think you can pin this on any democrat. We all want to see a Democrat win, Hillary or Obama, in November.

    January 22, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  7. basia

    What is scary to me is that the people who base their beliefs on such baseless, hate fueled emails show up on election day and vote.

    January 22, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  8. Carol

    What the heck difference does it make what religion a candidate is? I have been supporting Barack Obama ever since he announced his candidacy. I am a middle aged white woman. And I do not like what the Clintons are doing AT ALL. They are just turning me off more and more to them, and I have a feeling that the way they are trashing Barack Obama will backfire on them. I don't see how anyone could vote for her after the nonstop attacks.

    January 22, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  9. Lance

    I fully support Obama, regardless of his religious faith. After this past debate, ive pledged to give full support and encourage others.

    Please Please Please no more Clintons.....................or Bushes for that matter.

    January 22, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  10. Nicole

    Just think we have to put up with this back lashing for another 10 months

    January 22, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  11. Deborah

    I'm glad to see that Barack Obama is fighting back. It's unfortunate, however, that he, or any candidate, should have to spend time doing that, when our country so desperately needs leadership.

    January 22, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  12. Chase

    Barack is starting to fight back against this political machine known as "the Clintons".
    This type of dirty politics & fearmongering is not what America needs in a time division & war. We need a leader who will ATLEAST tell us the truth and be open and honest with us.
    All we should expect from HRC is another four years of fighting and getting nothing done. We Americans have played the fools over the past two presidential elections, let's not let fear cloud our judgement anymore.

    Obama 08.

    January 22, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  13. Madelyn Ende

    As a born again Christian who believes in the power of Jesus's love and His forgiving spirit ......I agree, if he was a Muslim ....so what! I also received that email about Obama, and was laughing at it!!! I deleted it because any intelligent person could see that it was propoganda!

    January 22, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  14. Bradley Schaubs, Greeley, CO

    Amen, Sitara! Let's bring an end to this unnecessary and false xenophobia.

    January 22, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  15. Tate, MD

    The Clintons are known for their nasty political campaigning. And this sounds like a Clintonian tactic. I hope it will backfire.

    January 22, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  16. IHearYa

    Sitara I'm with you, but there are many stupid people in America, and those are the people that actually vote for Hillary Clinton.

    January 22, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. Bryan in Illinois

    The ugliness of politics disappoints me. This email is just another reason to show my support for Obama. He will have my vote two weeks from now. I hope he wins and these fearmongers can be set aside, if just for four or eight years.

    January 22, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  18. Nancy

    It's an offensive tactic not only because it's a lie but because it preys upon the kind of racist fear-mongering too many politicians have used in the wake of 9/11. The source of these claims (gee, I wonder whom? couldn't possibly be the candidate most threatened by his charisma, honesty, and soaring popularity) should be outed and taken to task publicly. For shame.

    January 22, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  19. Gorbashov, Long Beach, Ca.

    It shouldn't matter to reasonable human beings. Unfortunately, half of the electorate are not reasonable.

    John Edwards is the most electable Democratic candidate that won't have to worry about such ridiculous issues, nor issues of gender!

    This election is too important to have to worry about such issues!

    Edwards in 2008!

    January 22, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  20. DeeDee

    What a complainer for a candidate, the email has been going around for over the last 6 months, it did not magically appear. I recieved it 10 times already for goodness sake. People aren't stupid, they no fact from fiction when it comes to some of these stupid emails. He should never had addressed it,

    He dares to make allegations when his surrogates, put out the phone ad to the hispanics in Nevada saying Hillary was disenfranchising thier vote.

    People don't buy it. He doesn't take on attacks very well, he just calls anyone who makes allegations a liar and then never states what the truth is or blames someone else.

    He is not the hope I have for this country, some one who can't admit his own errors, weaknesses and does not take strong stances. Except "I will be the next president" " I will bring change and hope". People are tired of hearing it. Tell us HOW you are going to have a viable plan for the economy, healthcare, and on the war.

    It's about time people are seeing him for the illusion he really is. Just an illusion. The obama effect is gone.

    January 22, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  21. chuck

    what does it matter what or who people believe in? Let's not discuss the moral decay of this country, or the immoral action of invading a sovereign country, let's discuss an individual's religious belief system. Why is one god better than another? Who cares! This country has real problems and which god someone believes in is not one of them!

    January 22, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  22. Michael Mee

    In response to why the different standards for Huckabee and Obama:

    Huckabee is on record as saying he would try and enforce his faith through government, his main segment of supporters desire that he do so. Where as Obama has never said he would do anything like that, and his supporters are vehemently opposed to that kind of legislation.

    January 22, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  23. Roy, Merrimack, NH

    In 1960 there was great mistrust of Kennedy because he was (gasp!) a Catholic. People called him Papist, there were rumors that he'd be taking orders from Rome, and there were questions whether he could really win in non-Catholic states.

    Between these rumors and the anti-Mormon smears that Romney has had to put up with, it's really too bad that we still have not gotten past religious bigotry in the past 48 years. I guess this just shows how far we need to go, and how much we need a President who truly believes in unity.

    January 22, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  24. AA

    what happen to the seperation of faith and politics, we are getting far away from what we want this country to be.

    January 22, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  25. Trung

    I must be missing something here: what's so bad about being a muslim?

    January 22, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
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