Myths and falsehoods about Barack Obama

In recent months, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has been the target of attacks, smears, and innuendo throughout the media. He has been called a Muslim who attended a madrassa and has heard his Christian church in Chicago accused of having a “separatist” doctrine that “contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity”; he has been accused of lying about issues he first addressed in 1995; the media have misrepresented or ignored his past statements to accuse him of dishonesty; he has fended off baseless accusations of scandals; and he has heard playground insults mocking his name and has even listened to media figures question his racial identity.


On January 17, the day after Obama announced the creation of his presidential exploratory committee, the conservative website published an article reporting that “sources close to [a] background check,” which was supposedly “conducted by researchers connected to” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), discovered that Obama “spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.” The article further reported that the “sources” said "[t]he idea is to show Obama as deceptive." These “sources” also speculated that the “the specific Madrassa Mr. Obama attended” might have taught “a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims.”

The story was quickly debunked by CNN and later by the Associated Press and ABC. But the madrassa smear nonetheless created a buzz in the conservative media, which used it to all but label Obama a Manchurian candidate.

But the story still had legs. Evidence of its impact came on the February 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, when host Chris Matthews previewed Obama's official announcement, which occurred the next day in Springfield, Illinois, that he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Matthews hosted James Warren, Chicago Tribune managing editor for features, and Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief. Warren cited “the B.S. story about the, you know, the Muslim school in Indonesia,” as “the sort of thing that is going to hit [Obama] and ... that could conceivably stymie him.” Warren added that he has “run into folks who have bought into that total, absolute B.S.”

The madrassa story was still being repeated in at least one media outlet in March. On the March 1 edition of San Francisco radio station KSFO's Morning Show, guest Catherine Moy revisited the smear. Moy, who co-wrote American Mourning: The Intimate Story of Two Families Joined by War, Torn by Beliefs (WND Books, October 2006) with Morning Show co-host Melanie Morgan, stated that, according to her source, Obama “flat-out lied” about his upbringing, and that the school Obama attended was “not a madrassa, but that they did teach the Quran, and they did teach that Jews are pigs. So that it -- you know, those kind of things that the Quran teaches, all of those things in the Quran that offend so many, he was taught.” But Obama himself has written that he was taught the Quran while in public school in Indonesia. From his book, Dreams from My Father (Crown, July 1995):

In Indonesia, I had spent two years at a Muslim school, two years at a Catholic school. In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell my mother that I made faces during Koranic studies. My mother wasn't overly concerned. 'Be respectful,' she'd said. In the Catholic school, when it came time to pray, I would pretend to close my eyes, then peek around the room.

Nothing happened. No angels descended. Just a parched old nun and thirty brown children, muttering words. Sometimes the nun would catch me, and her stern look would force my lids back shut. But that didn't change how I felt inside. I felt that way now, listening to Will; my silence was like closing my eyes.

Moy said her source for the information about Obama was Andy Martin, whom she described only as a “Republican” who “once ran in the primaries” for the Illinois Senate seat eventually won by Obama. According to a February 10, 2006, Chicago Tribune article, during bankruptcy proceedings, Martin “referred to a federal bankruptcy judge as a ”crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race," and, separately, stated: “I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did, when Jew survivors are operating as a wolf pack to steal my property.” The Tribune also reported that “Federal Bureau of Prisons records show Martin has spent several stints in several federal prisons on issues related to contempt of court.”


  • “Separatist” and member of a “cult”

As discredited charges about Obama's association with Islam began to fade, new smears about his religion began to surface. During the “Obameter” segment on the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson criticized Obama for being a member of a church that Carlson claimed “sounds separatist to me” and “contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity,” a subject Carlson said he was “actually qualified to discuss.” Carlson was referring to the "Black Value System" advocated by the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, of which Obama is a member. A February 6 Chicago Tribune article reported that “conservative critics have seized on Trinity's 12-point Black Value System, especially the portion relating to 'middleclassness,' as evidence that Obama is a divisive candidate who rejects mainstream American values and is primarily focused on the black community.” Carlson pointed to the “disavowal of the pursuit of 'middleclassness' ” in the church's tenets, calling the church's mission a “racially exclusive theology” and “a theology that ministers to one group of people, based on race.” Carlson claimed that Trinity's theology is “racially exclusive” and “wrong,” adding that “it's hard to call that Christianity.”

In an interview, Obama reportedly told the Tribune: “If I say to anybody in Iowa -- white, black, Hispanic or Asian -- that my church believes in the African-American community strengthening families or adhering to the black work ethic or being committed to self-discipline and self-respect and not forgetting where you came from, I don't think that's something anybody would object to. ... I think I'd get a few amens.”

Yet the description of Trinity as “separatist” continued. While discussing Obama's church on the February 28 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity stated that “many” call Trinity “separatist,” adding that “in some cases, even drawing comparisons to a cult.” Guest Erik Rush, a columnist for the conservative website WorldNetDaily, said that the church's “scary doctrine” is “something that you'd see in more like a cult or an Aryan Brethren Church or something like that.”

Referring to “The Black Value System,” Rush also stated on Hannity & Colmes: “I would go beyond saying that they're Afrocentric. They're African-centric. They refer to themselves as an African people, and that somewhat disturbs me from the viewpoint of, well, do they consider themselves Americans? Do they consider themselves Christians? Are they worshipping Christ? Are they worshipping African things black? Well, I mean, what is it?” Later in the segment, when co-host Alan Colmes asked: “Are you questioning Barack Obama's Christianity?” Rush responded simply: “Yeah.”

A similar smear was directed at Obama's church on the March 5 broadcast of KSFO's Sussman, Morgan, and Vic, when Morgan stated: "[T]his is a major American presidential candidate whose church that he belongs to -- says he's proud to belong to -- says that their allegiance goes to Africa before it goes to America." But while the Trinity website contains a "10-point Vision" that calls for its congregation to make “a non-negotiable commitment to Africa,” there is no statement that such a commitment supersedes a parishioner's commitment to the United States. Trinity's mission statement reads: "[W]e are called to be agents of liberation not only for the oppressed, but for all of God's family."

As the website Newshounds noted, on the March 1 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Trinity's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., responded to Rush's attacks, saying: “The African-centered point of view does not assume superiority, nor does it assume separatism. It assumes Africans speaking for themselves as subjects in history, not objects in history.”

  • Attacks on Obama's father

Obama has also faced attacks over his father's Muslim heritage. In a December 18, 2006, column headlined “Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim,” right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel argued that because Obama's middle name is Hussein, his late, estranged father was of Muslim descent, and he has shown interest in his father's Kenyan heritage, Obama's “loyalties” must be called into question.

The smear made it onto the radio a month later, when, on the January 19 edition of KSFO's Morning Show, co-host Lee Rodgers suggested that Obama may be a “death target” because of the revelation that he was born the son of a Muslim. Rodgers reiterated those comments on January 23, when he said: “If your father is a Muslim, you're a Muslim, and as far as Islamic law is concerned, you are a Muslim forevermore. ... And Islamic law says: 'You try to get out, any Muslim has not only the right but the duty to kill you.' ”

Additionally, on the January 21 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams noted that Obama “comes from a father who was a Muslim,” adding that “given that we're at war with Muslim extremists, that presents a problem.”

Obama has said in speeches that his father “was Muslim but as an adult became an atheist,” and he has previously described his father as “agnostic” and his stepfather as a “non-practicing” Muslim.

From an April 5, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times article:

Obama describes his father, after whom he is named, as “agnostic.” His paternal grandfather was a Muslim. His mother, he says, was a Christian.

“My mother, who I think had as much influence on my values as anybody, was not someone who wore her religion on her sleeve,” he says. “We'd go to church for Easter. She wasn't a 'church lady.' ”

In his 1993 memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama describes his mother as “a lonely witness for secular humanism.”

“My mother's confidence in needlepoint virtues depended on a faith I didn't possess, a faith that she would refuse to describe as religious; that, in fact, her experience told her was sacrilegious: a faith that rational, thoughtful people could shape their own destiny,” he says in the book.

When he was 6 years old, after his parents divorced, Obama moved with his mother and her new husband -- a non-practicing Muslim -- to Indonesia, where he lived until he was 10 and attended a Roman Catholic school.

False suggestions that Obama is lying or hiding his past

Several in the media have suggested that Obama is hiding his past -- including some who have accused him directly of dishonesty. He has been accused of misrepresenting or obscuring his upbringing, his father's past, the origin of his name, and his smoking habit.

  • Lied about schooling

During the March 1 Morning Show segment, in which Moy stated that, according to her source, Obama “flat-out lied” about his upbringing, Rodgers also asserted that Obama's campaign denied the madrassa story by falsely saying that the school Obama attended in Indonesia was “a very conventional Catholic school.” In fact, in addition to writing in The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Crown, October 2006) that he was “sent first to a neighborhood Catholic school and then to a predominantly Muslim school,” on January 23, Obama released a statement denying the story, and stating that, while in Indonesia, Obama was sent “to two years of Catholic school, as well as two years of public school.” From his statement:

All of the claims about Senator Obama's faith and education raised in the Insight Magazine story and repeated on Fox News are false. Senator Obama was raised in a secular household in Indonesia by his stepfather and mother. Obama's stepfather worked for a U.S. oil company, and sent his stepson to two years of Catholic school, as well as two years of public school. As Obama described it, “Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, tailors, and clerks.” [The Audacity of Hope, p. 274]

To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa.

Host Brit Hume made a similar claim during the “Political Grapevine” segment on the March 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report. He suggested that a March 15 Los Angeles Times article about Obama's “personal background in both Christianity and Islam” as a child in Indonesia contradicted Obama's previous statements. But contrary to Hume's suggestion, both the claim that Obama “took Muslim religious classes in school” and the claim that he “was registered as a Muslim” in primary school were previously known, and neither contradicts what Obama has said on the issue of his religion.

  • Hid facts about his father

On the February 28 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson devoted two segments to a February 26 article in London's Daily Mail to claim that Obama presented a false picture of his father, Barack Obama Sr., in Dreams from My Father. According to Gibson, the article demonstrated that Obama falsely portrayed his father as “a ray of hope” and “a great man,” and that Obama obscured the fact that his father was “a wife-beating alcoholic who didn't bother to get a divorce before marrying the next woman and having a few more kids.” Gibson said the article “looks like it's been well researched,” but offered no evidence to support the reliability of the tabloid newspaper's sources or the story itself.

In fact, the Daily Mail article, headlined “A Drunk and a Bigot: What the U.S. Presidential Hopeful Hasn't Said About His Father,” falsely suggested that Obama omitted key details -- which the Daily Mail claimed to have “discovered” -- about his father's life in Dreams from My Father to present a “conveniently potted account of his personal history.” The Daily Mail stated that it had “discovered that [Obama's] father was not just a deeply flawed individual but an abusive bigamist and an egomaniac, whose life was ruined not by racism or corruption but his own weaknesses.” The Daily Mail selectively quoted from Dreams from My Father to support its claim, but in the entire passage from which the article quoted, on Pages 125-126 (paperback), Obama recounted a conversation with his mother that addressed his father's bigamy. The Daily Mail article omitted that passage.

The passage in Obama's book directly refutes Gibson's claim that the Daily Mail “exposed” the fact that Obama's father “didn't bother to get a divorce before marrying the next woman and having a few more kids.” The paper didn't “expose” that fact at all; Obama did.

  • Flip-flopped on name origin

Media outlets have also suggested that Obama has given inconsistent explanations about the origin of his name and suggested that he is hiding something about his religious or ethnic background. In a February 9 article, Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen wrote: “Why has he sometimes said his first name is Arabic, and other times Swahili?” In a February 9 entry on The New York Times political weblog The Caucus, reporter Kate Phillips linked to Allen's article, excerpting the section in which Allen suggested that Obama has been dishonest about the origin of his name.

In fact, “Barack” comes from the Swahili derivative of the Arabic word meaning “blessing.” According to Yale University's "Kamusi Project" -- the “Internet Living Swahili Dictionary” -- the Swahili word “baraka,” meaning “blessing,” is derived from the Arabic word “bariki.” According to a January 12, 2004, Copley News Service article: “In an interview last week, Obama said he decided to call himself Barack -- a Swahili derivative of Arabic that means 'blessed,' as 'baruch' does in Hebrew -- after his father died.”

  • Hid smoking habit

On the January 17 edition of The Big Story, during a discussion with Manhattan Institute senior fellow John H. McWhorter and Young Democrats of America's Malia Lazu, Gibson said: “And [Obama's] team works overtime trying to hide Obama's dirty little secret. He is -- get this -- a cigarette smoker. The point is: What else do we not know about Barack Obama?” Despite Gibson's claim that Obama's smoking is “a dirty little secret,” Obama told the Chicago Tribune in December 2005 that his smoking is “an ongoing battle,” and his cigarette use was, in fact, known during his 2004 Senate campaign, when his wife told the Chicago Sun-Times that he smokes “about three Marlboros a day.”

Media outlets in search of scandal

In the last several months, reports on Obama's finances have appeared in the Chicago Tribune -- involving a 2005 land deal -- and The New York Times -- involving 2005 stock deals. Neither article alleged wrongdoing, but nonetheless labeled the land deal “shady,” and media following up on the Tribune and Times story often left out the fact that neither article included any charges of wrongdoing.

  • Land deal

On November 1, 2006, the Chicago Tribune reported that Obama and Antoin “Tony” Rezko -- who had “pleaded not guilty to federal charges involving pay-to-play allegations that surround Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration” -- bought adjoining properties on the same day in 2005 and that as Obama and Rezko “jointly worked to improve their side-by-side properties, the two men entered an ongoing series of personal financial arrangements.” The Tribune article alleged no wrongdoing and quoted Obama saying: “I haven't been involved with [Rezko] in any legislative work whatsoever or any government activities of any sort.” The article noted: “In normal circumstances, the two real estate transactions probably wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. There is, after all, nothing illegal or untoward about an aggressive developer buying hot property next door to a rising political star.” Indeed, the only apparent cause for the article's existence was that “these are not normal times for either Obama or Rezko.”

Even though the article alleged no wrongdoing on Obama's part, the Tribune editorialized two days later, writing that “the senator's real estate tie to Rezko threatens to leave Obama hoisted by his ethics petard.”

More than a month later, teased a December 14 article, headlined “Barackwater” and written by Slate chief political correspondent John Dickerson, by suggesting that the article exposed a “Shady Real Estate Deal” involving Obama. The article, whose headline was a reference to the Clinton-era Whitewater real-estate “scandal,” which gave rise to an extensive, multimillion-dollar investigation that turned up no evidence of illegality by the Clintons, in fact explained that there is “no evidence” Obama did anything wrong.

But even with the constant refrain that Obama had not "been accused of wrongdoing," as the AP reported, the discussion of the land deal came up again following Obama's announcement that he was forming an exploratory committee. For instance, on the January 20 edition of Fox News Watch, Newsday columnist Jim Pinkerton asserted that one of “the questions about a fellow ... named Barack Hussein Obama” is “about this land deal he had.” Similarly, during a report on the January 16 edition of ABC's Nightline, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper asked, “Just who the hell is Barack Obama?” and noted that voters “may not like what they hear about a questionable land deal [Obama] was involved in with a political operative since indicted for fraud.”

  • Stocks

In a March 7 front-page article, The New York Times reported that Obama “bought more than $50,000 worth of stock in two speculative companies whose major investors included some of his biggest political donors” and quoted an Obama spokesman saying that the presidential hopeful “did not know that he had invested in either company until fall 2005, when he learned of it and decided to sell the stocks.” The spokesman added that Obama “sold [the stocks] at a net loss of $13,000.” The article also noted that "[t]here is no evidence that any of his actions ended up benefiting either company during the roughly eight months that he owned the stocks" and that “Senate ethics rules do not prohibit lawmakers from owning stocks -- even in companies that do business with the federal government or could benefit from legislation they advance -- and indeed other members of Congress have investments in government contractors.”

Still, the story made its way onto television, where MSNBC News Live anchor Contessa Brewer suggested that the issue represented Obama's “first real scandal.” Neither Brewer nor her guest, Newsweek magazine senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe, noted that the Times had reported that there is no evidence any of Obama's actions benefited either company, though Wolffe did question whether the story qualified as a “scandal.”

The March 7 edition of ABC News' political newsletter, The Note, led with the Times' Obama story, calling it a “front page investigative must-read.” Like Slate did with the story about Obama's 2005 land deal, The Note drew a connection between the Times stock story and Whitewater, declaring that one of the "[b]ad sign[s] for Team Obama" is that even though Obama lost $13,000 in the stock deal, “Whitewater lost money too,” apparently suggesting that just as the fact that Whitewater lost money didn't exonerate the Clintons, so does the net loss in the stock transaction not exonerate Obama. But the comparison assumes that either needed exoneration: The Clintons were absolved of wrongdoing in connection with Whitewater, and there are no allegations of wrongdoing on Obama's part in connection with the stock deals.

In a March 7 entry to his weblog, The Fix, Washington Post staff writer Chris Cillizza lumped the two Obama “scandals” together and wrote: “For the second time since signaling his plans to run for president, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is battling allegations of ethical misjudgment.” Cillizza was referring to both the 2005 land deal and the stock purchase highlighted in the Times. However, contrary to Cillizza's claim, the Times article did not contain an “allegation[] of ethical misjudgment” and the Post itself reported, in an article to which Cillizza linked, that there “have been no allegations that Obama ... committed any ethics violations” in the land deal. Cillizza himself wrote in the post that "[t]aken apart (or even together), neither of these incidents are [sic] terribly damaging" but nonetheless concluded that "[o]ne incident can be dismissed as a simple mistake; two at least raises the possibility that there may be more ethical questions lurking out there."

Legislative activity

  • Introducing bills

On the December 18, 2006, edition of The Big Story, Fox News political analyst Dick Morris falsely claimed that Obama has “never introduced a bill” in Congress. In fact, according to the Library of Congress' THOMAS legislative database, Obama was the primary sponsor of 152 bills and resolutions introduced in the last Congress, including a bill (S.2125) that passed Congress on December 8, 2006, “to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” which he introduced on December 16, 2005. In addition, three nonbinding resolutions sponsored by Obama have passed the Senate, and 14 bills that he has co-sponsored have become law.

Obama has also introduced numerous other pieces of legislation. For example:

  • Introduced a bill (S.1194) directing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to establish guidelines for tracking spent fuel rods.
  • Introduced a bill (S.1426) extending provisions in the Safe Drinking Water Act that relate to preventing and detecting contamination.
  • Introduced a bill (S.1920) amending the Clean Air Act to establish a renewable diesel standard.
  • Introduced a bill (S.3988) improving benefits and services for members of the armed forces and veterans.

Still, a variation on the falsehood surfaced elsewhere. In a February 12 Politico article on Obama's “peevish” comments “accus[ing] the media of ignoring his substantive record and falsely depicting him as a lightweight,” senior political writer Ben Smith claimed that Obama “hasn't sponsored any legislation that would affect the way Americans live their daily lives.”

  • Ethics reform

Morris was caught again propagating a falsehood about Obama's legislative record, when, in his January 17 column for The Hill, he attacked Obama, claiming that the senator “made his first misstep a few days ago when he joined only a handful of Democrats in opposing a Senate reform banning the increasingly widespread practice of legislators hiring their family members on their campaign or PAC [political action committee] payrolls.” Morris was apparently referring to a proposed amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) to the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 that Morris claimed Obama voted against. In fact, on January 10, Obama voted against a motion to table -- or postpone consideration of and effectively kill -- the amendment.

In an entry that same day on The Hill's Pundits Blog, Morris acknowledged that he had been wrong, retracted his allegations against Obama, and apologized to the senator for his “mistaken reading of the record.” Morris' column has since been removed from The Hill's website. Nevertheless, several media outlets republished Morris' column or cited it as fact.

Name calling

  • “Halfrican” and “wigger”

In 1990, Obama became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and on November 2, 2004, Obama became the fifth black senator in U.S. history. But as his intentions of running for national office became clear, some media figures started to question Obama's racial identity. For instance, on the February 13 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, as the weblog Think Progress noted, Rush Limbaugh, after noting that Obama had said in an interview that "[i]f you look African-American in this society, you're treated as an African-American," added that "[i]f it's not something you want to be, if you didn't decide it, renounce it, become white!"

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck took it a step further, claiming that Obama “is colorless,” adding that “as a white guy ... [y]ou don't notice that he is black. So he might as well be white.” Limbaugh also joined other conservative radio hosts in referring to Obama as a “Halfrican” and a "half-minority" because of his white mother.

On the March 2 broadcast of his show, Limbaugh referred to a Chicago Tribune article that reported that two of Obama's ancestors on his mother's side owned slaves and stated that “since Obama has -- on his mother's side -- forebears of his mother had slaves, could we not say that if Obama wins the Democratic nomination and then wins the presidency, he will own [Rev.] Al Sharpton?”

Others purport to analyze Obama's racial identity. As Media Matters noted, in a March 11 entry to his weblog, columnist and film critic Steve Sailer -- who has written that African-Americans “tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups” -- posted excerpts of an article about Obama that Sailer claimed will be published in full in the March 26 edition of The American Conservative, a magazine co-founded by MSNBC political analyst Patrick J. Buchanan in 2002. Sailer has launched race-based attacks on Obama in the past and has drawn criticism for racist claims about African-Americans in general. The excerpts of Sailer's piece for The American Conservative are rife with baseless allegations, name-calling, and racial stereotypes.

Sailer, whose columns appear on, wrote on January 2: “The brutal truth: Obama is a 'wigger'. He's a remarkably exotic variety of the faux African-American, but a wigger nonetheless.” Sailer's column linked to a Wikipedia entry on the word “wigger,” which, at the time (as well as currently) read: “Wigger (alternatively spelled wigga or whigger or whigga) is a slang term that refers to a white person who emulates mannerisms, slangs and fashions stereotypically associated with urban African Americans; especially in relation to hip hop culture.”

  • What's in a name?

On the January 24 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory asked Obama how his “political enemies” would attempt to use his middle name, Hussein, against him. Indeed, by framing the questions in terms of political “enemies,” Gregory ignored the role of the media in promoting these story lines and, in some cases, even originating them.

Chris Matthews apparently was the first person to publicly mention Obama's middle name as a political issue, stating on the November 7, 2006, edition of Hardball: “You know, it's interesting that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. That will be interesting down the road, won't it?” Conservative media figures, such as Limbaugh, Hannity, Ann Coulter, Republican strategist Ed Rogers and Schlussel, have since frequently cited Obama's middle name, which he reportedly does not use.

But discussion of Obama's middle name has not been limited to Matthews and conservatives. On the December 11, 2006, edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Jeff Greenfield said: “Now, it is one thing to have a last name that sounds like Osama and a middle name, Hussein, that is probably less than helpful.” The following day, Greenfield explained on the CNN website that he was making “a joke” when, during the same segment, he compared the similarity of Obama's “business casual” clothing to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's “jacket-and-no-tie look,” but Greenfield did not mention his “Hussein” comment. As Media Matters noted, CNN correspondent Jeanne Moos also said on December 11, 2006: “As if that similarity [between ”Obama" and “Osama”] weren't enough. How about sharing the name of a former dictator? You know his middle name, Hussein."

Similarly, on the December 14, 2006, edition of Hardball, NBC News' Mike Viqueira announced “a man named Barack Obama, whose middle name, incidentally, is Hussein, running for president.”

While The Washington Post in a January 28 editorial described it as a “sleazy tactic,” references to Obama's middle name have continued. The Post noted that Obama does not use his middle name and argued that people “who take pains to insert it when referring to him are trying, none too subtly, to stir up scary images of menacing terrorists and evil dictators.” The editorial stated that using Obama's middle name “would be merely juvenile if it weren't so contemptible,” adding that those who employ it “embarrass only themselves.”

On MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, producer Bernard McGuirk claimed that Obama has a "Jew-hating name."

Finally, on March 8, Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes joined the chorus of media figures who have likened Obama's name to that of Osama bin Laden, when he joked: "[I]t is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don't know if it's true that President Bush called [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf and said: 'Why can't we catch this guy?' " Ailes made his comment while accepting the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation's First Amendment Leadership Award.