While discussing conservative radio host Bill Cunningham's repeated reference to Sen. Barack Obama's middle name -- Hussein -- Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson asserted: "[T]he silent thing that nobody is really talking about here is the reason that he was saying the middle name so many times ... is because the connotation is that Barack Obama is a Muslim potentially. His father was a Muslim." Carlson then referred to claims that Obama is a Muslim as “rumors,” but neither she nor co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade pointed out that those rumors are false, and that Obama is a Christian.
During the February 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, while discussing conservative radio host Bill Cunningham's repeated references to Sen. Barack Obama's middle name -- Hussein -- at a February 26 rally for Sen. John McCain, co-host Gretchen Carlson asserted: "[T]he silent thing that nobody is really talking about here is the reason that he was saying the middle name so many times ... is because the connotation is that Barack Obama is a Muslim potentially. His father was a Muslim." Carlson then referred to claims that Obama is a Muslim as “rumors,” but neither she nor co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade pointed out that those rumors are false, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, and that Obama is a Christian.
During the segment, Carlson also said, “Bill Cunningham -- in his defense -- he says that he always introduces or talks about people with their full name. I don't know if that's true or not.” It is not true. The previous night, Cunningham appeared on Hannity & Colmes -- also on Fox News -- and repeatedly referred to McCain without noting his middle name, Sidney. Indeed, on Hannity & Colmes, co-host Alan Colmes noted that Cunningham has a “double standard” about how he refers to Obama and McCain:
CUNNINGHAM: I did not. He's not my candidate. He is not a conservative. I'm a conservative Reagan Republican, and John McCain embarrassed himself. The local Republican Party, Alan Colmes, has received dozens of calls complaining about John Juan Pablo McCain. They're getting complaint calls.
COLMES: It's funny, I notice you make up names for John McCain. You don't call him John Sidney McCain III, which is his full name, but you call him Barack Hussein Mohammed Obama. So you have a double standard there, don't you, Mr. Cunningham?
CUNNINGHAM: My standard, Alan Colmes, is for the American people and the American way of life.
The Fox & Friends segment concluded with each of the three co-hosts defending Cunningham's use of Obama's middle name. Doocy asserted: "[H]ere's the other thing at play, though. It's his name. Why not use his name?" Carlson replied, “I know. Exactly.” And Kilmeade also agreed, stating, “It's not like you are knocking him with a nickname -- it's actually his name.”
During the January 19, 2007, edition of Fox & Friends First, Doocy asked of Obama, “Why didn't anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised -- spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father -- as a Muslim and was educated in a madrassa?” as the blog Think Progress noted. As Media Matters documented, during the January 22, 2007, edition of Fox & Friends First, Doocy issued a clarification: “We want to clarify something: On Friday of last week, we did the story from the Insight magazine where we talked about how they were quoting that Barack Obama, when he was a child growing up in Indonesia, had attended a madrassa. Well, Mr. Obama's people called and they said that that is absolutely false. They said the idea that Barack Obama went to a radical Muslim school is completely ridiculous. In his book it does say that he went to a mostly Muslim school but not to a madrassa.”
As Media Matters has noted, Obama has said of the false rumors that he is 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.”
From the February 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: We mentioned this a little while ago. There is a radio host out in Cleveland I believe yesterday.
DOOCY: Cincinnati, thank you very much. Radio guy Bill Cunningham, he's got a syndicated program. And he was the warm-up guy yesterday for John McCain. John McCain was not in the house when Bill Cunningham went on a rant against Barack Hussein Obama. Listen.
CUNNINGHAM [video clip]: Barack Hussein Obama ... Barack Hussein Obama ... Barack Hussein Obama's.
DOOCY: That's what I'm talking about. He said the guy's name three times.
KILMEADE: So he was called in there by Rob Portman, who was going to introduce John McCain. And he said, “You know what? Bill Cunningham is a huge personality here. We'll get -- bring him in and get the crowd fired up.” He talked about how Barack Obama's foreign policy is going to be getting all our enemies and terrorists together and singing Kumbaya together, but he kept bringing up that name, Senator Barack Hussein Obama. And a lot of people didn't like the connotation.
CARLSON: Well, and Bill Cunningham -- in his defense -- he says that he always introduces or talks about people with their full name. I don't know if that's true or not.
I do know that I worked in Cincinnati, so I'm familiar with Bill Cunningham. And he is -- you know, he is known for saying what he thinks and wearing his emotions on his sleeve. So he obviously doesn't think that he did anything wrong here.
Interestingly enough, now he is really mad at John McCain. Now he says he is going to support Hillary Clinton because he said he didn't like the fact -- his quote that John McCain threw me under the bus to the national media.
KILMEADE: Yeah, listen to John McCain responding to his introduction.
DOOCY: Here goes a guy under the bus.
McCAIN [video clip]: Any offense that was inflicted, I apologize for. I will take that responsibility, and I in no way would countenance such comments about anyone, much less my two opponents.
KILMEADE: Then he went up to Senator Barack Obama, he says, you know, if we go head-to-head with each other, we're going to treat each other with class. I have a lot of respect for you. He said a lot of nice things. Barack Obama responded kindly.
DOOCY: Bill Cunningham did not like getting dressed down by John McCain and was on this channel last night with fireworks.
CUNNINGHAM [video clip]: I've had it with John McCain. I'm going to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for president because she will do a better job in the Oval Office.
DOOCY: OK, there you go.
CARLSON: That was on Hannity & Colmes.
DOOCY: Pretty surprising.
CARLSON: I think the big difference is when shock jocks are on radio, they don't have a live audience where they can actually hear the response. And so maybe, you know, Bill Cunningham is not used to actually hearing the personal reaction. If you read the articles this morning, it seems to be mixed.
CARLSON: Some people in the audience were like, “Ooh, I can't believe he's doing that.” But again, the silent thing that nobody is really talking about here is the reason that he was saying the middle name so many times.
KILMEAD: Which is?
CARLSON: Hussein. Is because the connotation is that Barack Obama is a Muslim potentially. His father was a Muslim. And so the reason that John McCain would come out and apologize is because he does not want to be accused -- his camp does not want to be accused -- of fueling the rumors that Barack Obama is a Muslim.
DOOCY: Right, and in fact, there's been some polling done, apparently, by the Republicans to figure out if Barack Hussein Obama -- now I'm using Bill Cunningham's expression -- were the candidate, or Hillary Rodham Clinton were the candidate, what it would be like to run against somebody like Barack or Hillary and all the dynamics.
Now, here's the other thing at play, though. It's his name.
DOOCY: Why not use his name? It's his name.
CARLSON: I know. Exactly.
KILMEADE: It's not like you are knocking him with a nickname -- it's actually his name.