In the April 12 edition of her “Notebook” video blog, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric asked, “Is America ready to elect a president who grew up praying in a mosque?” and proceeded to repeat debunked rumors surrounding Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) childhood years in Indonesia.
Couric claimed that Obama's “background sparked rumors that he had studied at a radical madrassa, or Quranic school -- rumors his campaign denied, declaring that Obama is now a practicing Christian.” However, in noting simply that Obama's campaign “denied” the rumors that he attended a madrassa, Couric ignored the fact that these allegations have been thoroughly debunked.
Couric also cited a March 15 Los Angeles Times article, claiming that the Times “interviewed people who grew up with Obama,” and that it quoted “one of them,” Zulfan Adi, saying, “We prayed in the mosque ... but not seriously.” However, in a March 25 article, the Chicago Tribune challenged much of the Times' reporting. The Tribune noted that Adi -- who the Times claimed “describe[d] himself as among Obama's closest childhood friends” -- said “he was not certain” about his claim that Obama “regularly attended Friday prayers” at the mosque with his stepfather and that he “only knew Obama for a few months, during 1970, when his family moved to the neighborhood.” The Tribune further reported: “Interviews with dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia.”
From Couric's April 12 “Notebook”:
COURIC: Hi, everyone. Is America ready to elect a president who grew up praying in a mosque?
Barack Obama has arguably the most diverse religious background of any candidate ever. He was raised in Indonesia by a Christian mother and Muslim stepfather and attended a Catholic school -- but while growing up, also studied Islam. That background sparked rumors that he had studied in a radical madrassa, or Quranic school -- rumors his campaign denied, declaring that Obama is now a practicing Christian. Last month, the Los Angeles Times interviewed people who grew up with Obama. “We prayed in the mosque,” one of them said, “but not seriously,” noting that Obama also prayed with his Catholic schoolmates.
It's too soon to know what America will decide about Barack Obama or his background, but it's not too soon to wonder if America will see that as an asset or a liability.
That's a page from my notebook. I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.