Ignoring Tennessee GOP and McCain staffers, Politico claimed "smears" against Obama "have not been traced back to GOP sources"

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

The Politico stated that Sen. Barack Obama is "blaming Republicans for the smears" about his religion, patriotism, and citizenship "even though they have not been traced back to GOP sources." In fact, there have been numerous instances in which Republicans, including on Sen. John McCain's own staff, have promulgated or promoted these smears, some of which the Politico itself reported on.

A May 22 Politico article stated -- of an "e-mail campaign" against Sen. Barack Obama that, in Politico's words, "began as a demonstrably false attempt to cast Obama as a Muslim" and "spiraled into a broader assault that questions his patriotism and citizenship and generally portrays him as a threat to mainstream, white America" -- that Obama is "drawing the campaign into partisan combat, blaming Republicans for the smears even though they have not been traced back to GOP sources." The article went on to quote Obama: "The Republicans, they're trying to make [it] 'this is not about you; it's about me.' They're trying to say, 'Well, Obama, we don't know him that well, he hasn't been around that long, he's got a funny name; maybe he's a Muslim.' " But contrary to the assertion in the article, by Politico senior political writers Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin, that the smears "have not been traced back to GOP sources," there have been numerous instances of Republicans, including on Sen. John McCain's own staff, promulgating or promoting these smears.

  • A February 25 press release by the Tennessee Republican Party, titled "Anti-Semites for Obama," stated that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan "likened Obama to a new messiah" and "compared Obama to the founder of Islam, remarking that both had a white mother and black father, according to the Associated Press." The release originally included an image of Obama dressed in Somali clothing during a 2006 visit to northeast Kenya and described the photo as Obama "dressed in Muslim clothing during a 2006 trip to Africa." In fact, Yusuf Garaad Omar, head of the BBC's Somali Service, said of the clothing: "There is no religious significance to it whatsoever. It is mainly the nomadic people who use it. Some of them are religious, some are not." As Media Matters for America documented, while The Washington Post reported that McCain condemned the press release, he later touted the endorsement of the Tennessee GOP chairman, who was quoted attacking Obama in the press release.
  • In April, the North Carolina Republican Party released a controversial advertisement titled "Extreme" that featured video of Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., and stated that Obama "is just too extreme for North Carolina." Media Matters documented that on April 23, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN aired the ad or parts of the ad at least 22 times combined, in most cases also noting that McCain denounced it. Yet several pundits pointed out that airing the ad benefited McCain. For example, on the April 23 edition of The Situation Room, correspondent Brian Todd aired a quote from Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia: "It's win-win for McCain. McCain looks like a saint in denouncing the negative advertising, but he also ensures now that the media, the news media, will run that ad repeatedly for free. So the message of the ad will get out." CNN aired the advertisement at least three more times after Todd's report on the 4 p.m. ET hour of The Situation Room.
  • Dan Savage, columnist for Seattle's Stranger newspaper documented on January 21 that at the time, the Clark County, Washington, Republican Party website's "News" section featured an article headlined "Who is Barack Obama? Democrate [sic] Candidate for U.S. President," which said:

    Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background.

    It is reported that Obama swore his oath of office using the Koran and pictures have shown him standing for the Pledge but not reciting it and holding his hands to his side while others place their hands over their hearts.

    This is chilling information about a candidate for the highest office in the Country especially given the radical Muslim claims that they will destroy American from "the inside".

    On January 22, the Clark County GOP removed the article from its site, stating that its "information was not properly researched and was found to have some factual errors and some exaggerations." The same day, MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann awarded the Clark County GOP "runners up" in his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment, stating that the group was "nice enough to more or less transcribe that hate e-mail going around about Senator Barack Obama."

  • Politico's Martin himself reported that on March 14 the McCain campaign "included an op-ed from the WSJ [Wall Street Journal] written by Ron Kessler about Obama's pastor today in its morning clips." As Media Matters documented, the op-ed by Newsmax.com chief Washington correspondent Ronald Kessler stated that "Obama's close association with" Wright "raises legitimate questions about Mr. Obama's fundamental beliefs about his country," which "deserve a clearer answer than Mr. Obama has provided so far." Subsequently, McCain's campaign reportedly said it sent the op-ed "in error."
  • Martin also reported on March 20 that "[a]n aide to John McCain was suspended from the campaign today for blasting out an inflammatory video that raises questions about Barack Obama's patriotism," as Media Matters documented. Martin wrote that the staffer, "who works in McCain's political department, sent out the YouTube link of 'Is Obama Wright?' on twitter at 12:31 today with the tag, 'Good video on Obama and Wright' " and that the video "includes images of Malcolm X, black Olympians raising their hands in the black power salute and the rap song 'Fight the Power.' "
  • TPM Media editor and publisher Josh Marshall noted that on the February 22 edition of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) also raised the issue of Obama's patriotism, saying that Obama "won't put an American flag lapel pin on his coat" and falsely claiming that Obama "would not say the Pledge of Allegiance." Kingston went on to ask where Obama "stand[s] on America."
  • Media Matters documented that in comments made to a Spencer, Iowa, radio station and published in a March 8 Spencer Daily Reporter article, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) stated: "I will tell you that, if [Obama] is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror." The article continued:

    King thinks radical Islamists will say the United States has capitulated because the Obama administration would be pulling troops out of any conflict associated with al-Qaida.

    "Additionally, his middle name (Hussein) does matter," King said. "It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world. That has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says: Pull out of the Middle East and pull out of this conflict."

From the May 22 Politico article:

What began as a demonstrably false attempt to cast Obama as a Muslim has now metastasized into something far more threatening to the likely Democratic nominee. The spurious claims about his faith have spiraled into a broader assault that questions his patriotism and citizenship and generally portrays him as a threat to mainstream, white America.

The spread of these e-mails has forced Obama to embark on a campaign to Americanize his image and his biography. Pivoting away from his pitch to a primary election audience uninterested in flag-waving and nationalism, he's returning to the message that first brought him to the national spotlight in 2004: the idea that his is the quintessential American story.

He's also drawing the campaign into partisan combat, blaming Republicans for the smears even though they have not been traced back to GOP sources. "The Republicans, they're trying to make [it] 'this is not about you; it's about me.' They're trying to say, 'Well, Obama, we don't know him that well, he hasn't been around that long, he's got a funny name; maybe he's a Muslim,'" Obama said Monday in Montana. "They want to make people worry about me."

Ironically, the smear campaign represents the dark side of the Internet's emerging dominance in American politics -- a phenomenon that has driven Obama's unparalleled grass-roots and financial campaigns. After harnessing the Web to great advantage, Obama is now struggling to beat back the viral threat from the same uncontrollable medium.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
The Politico
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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