Thursday, March 27, 2008

anatomy of a smear: the Obama campaign

White Democrats who hold unfavorable views of Obama are much more likely than those who have favorable opinions of him to say that equal rights for minorities have been pushed too far; they also are more likely to disapprove of interracial dating, and are more concerned about the threat that immigrants may pose to American values. In addition, nearly a quarter of white Democrats (23%) who hold a negative view of Obama believe he is a Muslim. - Pew Foundation.
NOW on PBS tracked this smear campaign back in January - Anatomy of a Smear.

Timeline of a Smear

2006: The first chain e-mail circulated on the Internet contending that Obama is Muslim. (Politifact and other fact-checking websites have been unable to pinpoint the exact date)

Jan. 17, 2007: A discredited news story from, "Hillary's team has questions about Obama's Muslim background," reported that Obama had attended a madrassa, an Islamic religious school, as a child.

Jan. 19, 2007: Fox News' Fox & Friend First and Fox & Friends highlighted the report from InsightMag in its coverage without discrediting it. The weblog Think Progress noted that Fox even took caller comments about the allegations.

Jan. 20, 2007: New York Post article titled 'Osama' Mud Flies at Obama quoted Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson saying, "We have no connection to this story."

The week of Jan. 20, 2007: CNN, ABC-TV and the Associated Press sent reporters to the school Obama attended and reported that it was not a religious school but a public school.

Jan. 23, 2007: Washington Post article by media columnist Howard Kurtz, "Headmaster Disputes Claim That Obama Attended Islamic School", reported that the school Obama attended was not a religious school but a public school.

March, 15, 2007: A website article titled "The Enemy Within" dispelled the claim that Obama is a "radical, ideological Muslim."

Sept. 16, 2007: A photo of Obama that would later be used as the basis for anotherTime photo read, "Respect: Senator Barack Obama, Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Hillary Clinton and Ruth Harkin stand during the national anthem."

Oct. 2007: The first chain e-mail accompanying some version of an e-mailed photo circulated on the Internet questioning Obama's patriotism based on its contention that Obama refused to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. One of the e-mails read: "He refused to not only put his hand on his heart during the pledge of allegiance, but refused to say the pledge ... how in the hell can a man like this expect to be our next Commander-in-Chief?"

Oct. 27, 2007: Snopes could not find any information substantiating the claim that Obama refused to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. However, they did say that the following claim, "Photograph shows Barack Obama without his hand over his heart while the U.S. national anthem is being played," is true.

Nov. 9, 2007: The St. Petersburg Times publishes an article "E-mail assailing Obama's patriotism misses mark" pointing to the original Time photograph as evidence that the e-mail rumor makes a false claim. The article also discusses the new phenomenon of chain e-mails "ricocheting" around Internet.

Nov. 11, 2007: A video from ABC News confirmed that the photo was taken during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Nov. 29, 2007: The Washington Post publishes an article, "Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him", by political reporter Perry Bacon Jr. exploring the rumors that Obama was Muslim. The article did not explicitly dispel those rumors.

Dec. 9, 2007: In response to "ferocious" criticism from readers and others, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell addresses Bacon's story in a column titled Refuting, or Feeding, the Rumor Mill. She writes: "My problems with the story...were that Obama's connections to Islam are slender at best; that the rumors were old; and that convincing evidence of their falsity wasn't included in the story."

Dec. 13, 2007: Despite being debunked by mainstream news organizations, the claim that Obama didn't place his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance is repeated on Bill O' Reilly's show. In response to a caller who says she's disturbed by Obama's alleged action, O'Reilly doesn't correct her and, according to, replies: "I think that Obama needs to answer some questions about his point of view, not only on the USA, but on a lot of things." negative rumor was taken in Indianola, Iowa, at the Harkin Steak Fry, an annual political event hosted by Sen. Tom Harkin. The caption on the

via: Art Levine/HuffPost/PBS NOW

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