Associated Press Shattering Obama Myths

The Associated Press, which has recently taken extra strides to make the facts clear in the lower Manhattan Islamic Center controversy, offers a great piece today examining several myths surrounding President Obama, and blames both media outlets and the public's acceptance of unverified reports for their existence:

Blame it on the media, or on human nature. All presidents deal with image problems -- that they're too weak or too belligerent, too far left or far right. But Obama also faces questions over documented facts, in part because some people identify more with the rumormongers than the debunkers.

“Trust and distrust -- that explains almost all of it,” says Nicholas DiFonzo, professor of psychology at the Rochester Institute of Technology and an expert on rumor and gossip research. “We are in such a highly polarized political environment. Our country is sorting itself into more closely knit, opposing factions each year” -- factions, DiFonzo suggests, that in turn become “echo chambers” for factoids that aren't fact at all.

The piece later notes some conservative pundits influence:

Others have helped keep rumors about Obama's religion and birth alive. Conservative commentators including radio talk show host Michael Savage have repeated debunked claims that Obama attended a radical Muslim madrassa in Indonesia. Rush Limbaugh has facetiously referred to “Imam Obama” in recent days, and last year praised a woman who at a Delaware town hall meeting questioned Obama's citizenship. Lou Dobbs gave significant air time to such “birther” claims on CNN -- despite his own insistence that he believed Obama was born in the U.S. ...

We have never been without misperceptions, but they are speeded and multiplied in the Internet age. Last month, right-wing bloggers -- citing unnamed sources within the Laredo Police Department in Texas -- reported that the Mexican drug cartel Zetas had captured two Laredo ranches. The story was picked up by author-pundit Michelle Malkin and other conservatives.