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. Allen

    This didn't begin with the Clinton campaign. It's long been part of the conservative smear campaign against Senator Obama, and it's part of a well-coordinated effort at disparaging all who don't espouse narrowly defined conservative ideals.

    You don't have to look any farther than the CNN Newsroom to see how such things manifest themselves. CNN's own political commentator, Bill Bennett, marveled at Obama's success in his comments on the evening of the Iowa Caucus and referred to Senator Obama as, "Barack HUSSEIN Obama." (The emphasis was Bennett's, not my own.) That no one picked up on it was stunning. That you can hear this repeated by conservative pundits regularly and read it in letters to the editor that quote conservative talking points speaks to the degree it has worked its way into the broader population of conservatives.

    This should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially since such techniques have been successful in the past. Let's not forget the attacks on the patriotism of a Georgia Senator who lost the use of his limbs fighting in Vietnam, etc., etc., etc. What a sad commentary on this country's inability to engage in meaningful discourse on something so incredibly important as the selection of the next President.

    January 22, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  2. Obama 08

    Yamaka, you make me ill!

    And Amy, obama is very much a victim here as Clinton supporters were yelling these pathetic rumors, some of the most ridiculous ones which have not been printed. These rumours have to be addressed and he is doing that.

    I am disgusted that CNN continues to publish blogs that continue this slander!

    January 22, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  3. Independent_me

    I agree with John Rellick.

    I also think Carl Rove and his cohorts are behind this. This kind of rumor-spreading is what they are skilled at. Don't underestimate the diabolical protégée of Machiavelli (Rove) who is skilled at starting "whispers" and making it look like it came from the other side.

    That is precisely why I left the Republican Party and became an Independent. They are shameless in how they use religion to promote their agendas. Thank goodness there really is a God...and a day coming when they will be judged for their evil works...

    January 22, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  4. Joseph Ritz

    I received one of those Obama is a Muslim emails from a high school friend in Ohio last fall. I was offended by it. I never replied to the sender, but it made me, a Democrat, a supporter of the victim.

    January 22, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  5. Cheryl

    I voted Obama into the office he currently holds and was quite happy when he won. He's the first reasonably honest politician Illinois has had in decades. In an age where voting is boiled down to choosing the lesser of evils, it was refreshing to vote for someone who actually deserved a chance to represent the people of his state.

    As for his religion, I don't think it's relevant to his ability to run the country. I'd rather have a non-Christian in office do a decent job, than a faux-Christian run politics-as-usual and give Jesus Christ and His cause a bad name. Going to a Christian church does not make one a Christian. Take a look at the person's works, words, and actions! Therein you will find if what they say about their faith is true.

    January 22, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  6. landon

    The country was built on Christian Faith. If you are a Christian then there is a problem. I'm not saying that anything is wrong, but if you are a Christian then you have a certain belief. A belief in one Lord and his name is Jesus. Telling me that religous freedom is in the United States does not change the Christian faith. If you are a Muslim then you believe something else. If you are a Buddist, the same thing.

    Faith does make a difference if you truly have a "Faith".

    January 22, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  7. Rltybsd

    Try this again – the rumor started on Debbie Schlussel's site in December of 06.

    January 22, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  8. denise

    It's not the Muslim that I am concerned about... it's the Black Supremest church he belongs to.

    January 22, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  9. Jason

    I have seen the pictures of him not saluting the flag or saying the Pledge of Allegiance! That is the explanation I am looking to hear!

    January 22, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  10. Narasimhan

    I am now appalled at the ignorance shown by Harrison (9:28pm ET). Hindi is a language. No one can be "hindi". What you were trying to say is you don't care if he is "Hindu". Get it, Harrison?. Even if you made a typo (considering i and o are next to one another on the Christian (oops I mean English) keyboard), one should take time to check the spelling before hitting submit!

    CNN, I am keeping this civil, but I cannot handle erroneous posts propagating.

    January 22, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  11. oy

    Kim – The false email claimed he refused to recite the pledge and as I understand it that is a false claim.

    January 22, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  12. CDH

    Those of you who blame the Clinton campaign for these rumors are doing the very thing you criticize. You are trying to slime Senator Clinton without any evidence. That is exactly what is being done to Senator Obama by these idiots. There are coming out of the republican smear machine. You should expect that this and much worse will continue to come at both Clinton and Obama.

    January 22, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  13. CRW

    Well, since Huckabee became a major news story after standing in front of a cross during a commercial, will the same happen to Obama? (Read the last line of the article).

    January 22, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  14. Mindy J

    Religion aside, did he or did he not place his right hand over his heart during the pledge? I have read time and time again that he refuses to do so. if this is the case..OUT WITH HIM PERIOD!!

    January 22, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  15. Ibeam

    I love my country...but you people are silly. The Clintons are full of it. They are morally corrupt. I will never vote for people like them. The Clinton are trying to split our country and you folks are falling for it. The Dems will lose in Nov with her as their cand. Go...McCain

    January 22, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  16. John

    As I watch this campaign unfold, it is like I entered into a time warp and it is the 1990s. I had forgotten how nasty things can get and how polarized the country becomes when a Clinton is running for political office. What I don't understand is why the Democrats would nominate another Clinton - did we not have enough fighting in the 1990s? Who wants to go back to that?

    I am a Democrat and proud of it ... but I will never vote for a Clinton again. Period. End of story. And, I know many other Democrats who feel the same way.

    This country deserves a lot better.

    January 22, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  17. Whitecloud

    Obama will bring this Country together. I vision him as another JFK and that is what we need.

    We surely do not need Clinton back for fear they, yes they, will come up with NAFTA #2 and give the rest of our jobs to other countries. They have to pay back their contributors someway.

    January 22, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  18. james, newport, KY

    The Democratic party has three very questionable candidates. Obama lacks experience, Hillary lacks the ability to unite America, and Edwards is just simply lacking nearly everything. What happened to the Carter/Johnson/Kennedy Dems of yesteryear?
    The Repubs should win easily in November, regardless of their nominee.

    January 22, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  19. Greg OH


    That was also proven to be a false rumor and another email smear.

    January 22, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  20. Greg OH


    What is with all of these same false rumors that have been proven to be false also of sudden being brought up again? It is great to see the smear emails/ campaign live and well. I hope all of you are being paid a lot by Clinton campaign because it is unethical to do what you are doing.

    January 22, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  21. carol

    Your inference that it is Hillary's camp is not only ridiculous but pathetic and offensive!

    January 22, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  22. Jeannie

    I've been told that when a rumor hits the airwaves such as the one accusing Mr. Obama of being a Muslim, not saluting the US flag and refusing to be sworn in with the Bible, that one can go to Snopes.com and find out if the rumor is true or not. According to Snopes.com, Mr. Obama is a Muslim, etc.

    January 22, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  23. sean

    I very much doubt this e-mail was started by anyone in the Clinton campaign, this has all the hallmarks of a Republican smear tactic. I know a couple of people on her team were fired for forwarding on this e-mail awhile back.

    I find the not-so-subtle attempt to link this e-mail with Hillary Clinton a little bit distasteful. It dooesn't reflect well on him.

    January 22, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  24. Tim Calhoun '08, Moreno Valley, CA

    Americans need to get over their "WASP in the White House" fetish. Seriously.

    January 22, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  25. Mike

    When will racism end?

    January 22, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
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