A CNN online poll asked: "Does [Sen.] Barack Obama show the proper patriotism for someone who wants to be president of the United States?" The Politico's Ben Smith wrote: "[I]t's odd to see the mainstream media drive a largely whispered question that none of his main, named critics -- Hillary, McCain or the RNC -- will touch."
As Politico senior political writer Ben Smith noted, on February 24, an online poll at CNN.com asked: "Does [Sen.] Barack Obama show the proper patriotism for someone who wants to be president of the United States?" Smith wrote: "I've got to say, I've never seen a reader poll like this on a mainstream media website (or, to be honest, a right-wing blog). ... [I]t's odd to see the mainstream media drive a largely whispered question that none of his main, named critics -- [Sen.] Hillary [Clinton], [Sen. John] McCain or the RNC -- will touch."
With the poll question, CNN.com lent legitimacy to a smear campaign directed at Obama. CNN.com noted that a reporter questioning Obama at a campaign event about charges by conservatives and Republicans that he is "unpatriotic" "cited the fact that Obama once failed to put his hand over his heart while singing the national anthem." CNN itself noted that Obama "has been the subject of various debunked rumors," including the false assertion that Obama is a Muslim. The Associated Press cited Republican operatives encouraging attacks on Obama's patriotism.
Media Matters for America has noted several instances in which conservative media figures have promoted questions about Obama's patriotism, pointing to his choice not to wear U.S. flag pins and a photo showing Obama without his hand over his heart during a playing of the national anthem. Obama said in October 2007 that he had decided to stop wearing a U.S. flag lapel pin during the run-up to the Iraq war because it had become "a substitute for, I think, true patriotism." In an October 3 interview with ABC affiliate KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Obama explained: "I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great and, hopefully, that will be a testimony to my patriotism." As Snopes.com pointed out when a chain email began circulating containing a photograph of Obama standing without his hand over his heart during a playing of the national anthem, the Obama campaign subsequently released photographs of Obama with his hand over his heart during the national anthem.