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. Sarah R

    Why don't we keep religion and politics separate? What is best for the country isn't necessarily what's best for one particular religion or group of people. Lets look at his ideas for future policies an then decide if we want to vote for him or not.

    January 22, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  2. lc

    In the pics, he is not saluting the flag during the singing of the NATIONAL ANTHEM. There is no OFFICIAL (modern) protocol for this. The standard is to be respectful during the song- WHICH HE WAS.

    January 22, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  3. Slim

    Don't believe a word of it. He says he's a Christian so he can run for office.

    January 22, 2008 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  4. ken

    NBC News with Bryan Williams had a feature on this item tonight where the Republican party was spreading these rumors in small rural towns – not the Clintons. Everyone should stop their speculation; who knows maybe its a republican strategy to splinter the Democrats.

    January 22, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  5. clato

    I went to a catholic school and I am not catholic. It doesn't matter if muslim law says because his father is muslim he is muslim it matters what he believes.

    January 22, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  6. Amy

    I can't believe that in a country, the great United States of America, where we have freedom of religion, that we would allow the demeaning ANYONE'S religion! Whether it is Christian, Jew, or Muslim.

    Obama clearly is not a Muslim. But how do you think that makes any Muslim-American feel? Many American Muslims who are doctors, engineers, your neighbors, and just plain hard-working honest American.

    And because some underhanded politician wants to get elected, they have chosen to take the word Muslim and act as if it is a dirty word. It is a disservice to our country and disrespectful to any person of the Muslim faith.

    America, are we not better than this?

    Muslim is not a dirty word. And Obama is not a Muslim. He is a Christian. Stop letting underhanded politicians divide this country for their personal gain. It is beneath our character as Americans and it hurts us all.

    January 22, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  7. Spencer

    How come Obama did not effectively deal with this earlier when these emails first appeared? The fact that he didn't is a major tactical error. This, coupled with his "musings" on Reagan, just prove he is really way too inexperienced of a politician.

    January 22, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  8. claire

    Does it matter?
    I am voting and praying for Clinton and Edwards. They will make America an even better country than it us, and has been the last eight years!!

    January 22, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  9. John

    Anyone who believes everything they hear or see without questioning it is setting themselves up to be duped. As many times as we have elections and votes in our lives we always fall for the same tricks every time.....question everything or you will believe anything and know nothing.

    January 22, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  10. Sick of Double-Standards

    So let me get this straight:

    Obama attacks Clinton as the old status quo for months, questions her judgment on Iraq when he admits he doesn't know how he would have voted, questions her integrity by saying she can't give a straight answer, allows his campaign manager to suggest she is responsible for Bhutto's death, did nothing when his South Carolina campaign chair said on national TV that Hillary didn't care about Katrina victims, tries to paint the Clintons as racists, calls out Hillary for sitting on Wal-Mart's board, implies that Reagan was a better President than Clinton, and now insinuates that Hillary is spreading rumors that he's a radical Muslim?

    I'm sorry, who's the divider here? Who's playing dirty politics? This guy and his supporters are total hypocrites!

    January 22, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  11. Khalid

    Please stop the nonsense ok. Obama is pure christian. He is good for america.

    January 23, 2008 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  12. Leah

    Paul W.,

    It's also written down that Obama is Christian, so either there's a discrepancy in your analysis or they're both true. I don't have anything against Neil Simon (he's one of my favorite playwrights), but it's a bizarre analogy, unless of course, you're being sarcastic. Then, I'm just being silly.

    Honestly, I'm not sure why his religion should be such a focal point anyway, seeing as how were supposedly "tolerant of all religions" and a "secular" state. We cannot avoid prejudice in any form (that is impossible), but we shouldn't see this blanket statement and delve into our own personal tirades based on our gut feelings as opposed to evidence. Rather than making issue with a viral e-mail, we should be considering the current issues at hand and making conscious decisions based on the candidates' stances on a variety of topics, whether they be a Republican or a Democrat. And this is coming from a teenager.

    January 23, 2008 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  13. Charles

    The United States will continue to face growing challenges over the next presidential term. It would be wise for voters to cast a vote with wisdom and not the emotions that the presidential marketers are stirring up.

    Our economy, the continuing drift economically between the have and have-nots, the sell off of American companies and real estate to foreign interest; the national debt; the continual influence of the military industrialist complex; an approach to ridding our dependence on Middle East oil, the nuclear energy alternative; are just a few major issues.

    The last two presidential terms should remind us how critical our decision making process is, in determining who to pull the voting booth level for.

    January 23, 2008 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  14. Marko M

    I don't know if the voters are actually aware of this FACT, but this is the bottom line: If we all want the situation to stabilize in the middle east and other eastern and African countries that America has NOT SO GOOD relations with, Obama is the only MAN that can actually come closer to a resolution with these countries of the third world who could finally relate to an american leader. I'm sorry but this is the truth people lets all get real here. Muslim leaders will not consider a female president(Clinton) as something they should pay attention to. We all want our troops home right? But yet nobody seems to pay attention to the fact that weather we like to believe it or not this world has everything to do with race. This is why race can finally work in America's advantage. A man of African descendance and good political background can sit down eye to eye with third world leaders from those regions of the world that are not so open minded and view America and Americans as The Devil, only because Obama doesnt 'look' like The Devil to them and his name doesnt sound like it.
    (I.E. George Bush)

    January 23, 2008 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  15. David Snider

    Yamaka, he was in a Christian school.

    Obviously you didnt do your math properly. Stop Spreading lies. We are all sick of it!

    January 23, 2008 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  16. Hekmat

    Let's put the religion a side. It is the right time and place for Obama to be the next president of United States. Everyone is sick of old politics over and over. Its time for change and get the country. Only Obama can do this because he is very bright and intelligent person. I am sure he will give a fresh start to this country in right direction. Thats why he is getting my vote. God bless

    January 23, 2008 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  17. Bilal

    I am a muslim. And no true muslim will denounce there faith for any cause. Barack Obama is a great Christan man who i respect deeply. We should get past the days of swift boating and vote for whats good for the country and whats good for you personally. No matter who you support Obama Clinton or Edwards get past the smeers that have worked against the democratic party in the past and be smarter that to believe bogus emails.

    January 23, 2008 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  18. Luke

    It may be true that we don't know that much about Obama.

    The problem is we do know far too much about the Clintons.

    Change? Maybe change back to 8 years ago. Not the direction I am choosing.

    I voted for Bill the first time. I will vote Republican before I vote for Hillary.

    January 23, 2008 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  19. Montana

    How sad that in the year 2008 people still judge others by the color of their skin!

    Barak Obama would make a wonderful President. He is a great Senator,
    honest and speaks from the heart. He is a good family man.

    Bush stole the election and has run this country into the ground.
    America is at the steps of financial disaster. Americans are hungry and
    homeless. Under the current administration Americans have acted
    arrogant and full of pride... I don't think that is the "Christian Way". We
    have become a country of torturers, liars and killers. We have never
    had an administration that was more corrupt than the Bush administration.
    They don't care in the least what the American People want.

    What we need is a President and administration that listen to and respect
    the American Public... I don't care what religion that person is or what color
    their skin.

    Take a good look in the mirror, what measure could you stand up to???

    January 23, 2008 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  20. Denise

    I have always known Sen Obama was a Christian.. That was never a question to me.. He would not be speakin unity otherwise...

    But what bother me is when people say he is not a Real Black American? Define for me what is a True Black American? Comparing Obama to men like jesse Jackson and al sharpton is a slap in the face to Obama.. Thsoe two can take any thing a person says and turn it racists. Just because they say "I'm black and I'm proud" does not make them black.. Jesse jackson had a child while he was still married and has the never to call himself a Man of God.. So lets not go there with Jackson ok... Al sharpton is one who prays on people to get media coverage.. So is this people's Idea of "Black American Men?" It shouldn't be..

    Being biracial doesn't mean a thing except in the White race you are "too Black" and in the Black race you are "too White". And we (black americans) say we are not racist!! wake up... !!!!

    What better person to not only unite the parties but the country then a man who can speak and talk from "Both worlds"?

    Neither Bill or Hilary Clinton can tell what its Like to be a "Black American" Cause I live it.. they never have or ever will..

    January 23, 2008 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  21. Obama08

    American government tells us all the time how in other parts of the world people don't respect women, other faith,... and yet I don't see them condeming any false attack that would have affect the outcome of a ballot.

    January 23, 2008 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  22. Danielle


    Because Obama doesn't call himself "The Spiritual Lead for America", isn't an ordained minister, and "The Audacity of Hope" can't be found at most Lifeway Christian stores.

    Also, while Obama would be a Christian president (like many, many Christian presidents over the years), he would not be -the- Christian president, as Huckabee is selling himself.

    Obama's faith most likely would have never come up were it not for these vicious rumours.

    January 23, 2008 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  23. Wayne

    Lets not forget Obama is still human even if he is a Muslim. like I said before I'm a none American but closely following every debate of both parties sitting in my home in Sweden, so why don't these seemly intelligent men and women understand that the whole wide world is having a very watchful eye on the US elections and therefore act more responsible and constructively?

    January 23, 2008 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  24. Claire

    I don't care about Obama's religion.What you should all know is that this guy is a politician like the rest.They appear perfect during campaigns and turn out different once elected. Obama has never taken responsibility about anything, he wants to to be Mr perfect, he has a reason for everything no matter how it comes across to people like me. When he is challenged or questioned, he gets angry. Beware of those that come in sheepskin.

    January 23, 2008 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  25. Working MAMA in the Northwest

    Values, Insurance, the economy, education – those are my issues.
    I have yet to see a 'plan' that Obama has put out for either of these – I am black and educated with several degrees – Hilary is 'wishy-washy' – voting to 'keep' the war in Iraq – Everyone, be informed – educate yourselves – A news clip or reel is not enough – Listen to the messages the candidates are putting forth –
    Having Bill Clinton as a front runner for Hillary gives me goosebumps in a bad way – Could hurt her campaign – But this is how me and hubby are looking at this:
    The republican party is 'hoping' that Barack wins the nomination – Why?
    Because they know that America is thinking, "Do I want a black man for president who is a democrat, or should I forfeit my Democratic card and vote for the white republican male?" Americans and this America are not that progressive just yet.
    Then when Americans get to the polls in November – they are gonna have two choices – A black man or a white man – We see it that folks will abandon their party affiliation and vote behind that curtain their skin color – bottom line – That's just Americans keeping it 'real'.
    Americans, brace yourselves for another 4 years of pure hell and empy checking accounts, Ladies and gentlemen.
    THanks for the opp to vent.

    January 23, 2008 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
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