Archive for Friday, August 20, 2010

Obama a Muslim? Rumors gain steam, defying facts

August 20, 2010


In this 2006 file photo, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, is dressed as a Somali Elder by Sheikh Mahmed Hassan, left, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya, near the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia.

In this 2006 file photo, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, is dressed as a Somali Elder by Sheikh Mahmed Hassan, left, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya, near the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia.

— “President Obama is a Muslim.” “He’s not an American citizen.” “He wasn’t even born here.”

None of this is true. But to surprising levels, it is believed.

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.

Nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, said they think Obama is Muslim, up from the 11 percent who said so in March 2009, according to a poll released Thursday. The proportion who correctly say he is a Christian is just 34 percent, down from 48 percent in March of last year.

The White House even felt compelled to respond with a terse knockdown from spokesman Bill Burton: “The president is obviously a Christian. He prays every day.”

Obama is the Christian son of a Kenyan Muslim father and a Kansas mother. Born in Hawaii, he lived from ages 6 to 10 in predominantly Muslim Indonesia with his mother and Indonesian stepfather. His full name, Barack Hussein Obama, sounds Muslim to many.

Confusion about Obama’s religion was common, and sometimes encouraged, during the 2008 campaign. An Associated Press photograph that circulated on the Internet, and was posted on The Drudge Report, showed Obama dressed in traditional local garments — a white turban and a wraparound white robe — during a visit to Kenya in 2006. Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton may have contributed through her response to a question, during a “60 Minutes” interview, about whether he was a Muslim. “There’s nothing to base that on,” she said. “As far as I know.”

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.

The new survey, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and its affiliated Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, is based on interviews conducted before the controversy over whether Muslims should be permitted to construct a mosque near the World Trade Center site. Obama has said he believes Muslims have the right to build an Islamic center there, though he’s also said he won’t take a position on whether they should actually build it.

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.

Inquiries from local media and the liberal Web site Talking Points Memo turned up different news: The raids never happened.

“The Internet has made it worse,” says Lori Robertson, managing editor of the website, a nonpartisan project run under the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. “Any of these rumors are more rampant, and there’s more stuff about them — blogs writing about conspiracy theories. People are exposed to it more.”


Robert Dyer 7 years, 10 months ago

Is there any doubt about BO's beliefs? Our Prez bows to the King of Saudi Arabia and promotes the construction of a mosque next to the site of the NY WTC. But,, more importantly, what is he doing to our country and with our grandchildren's tax dollars?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

"Is there any doubt about BO's beliefs?"

Sure. He campaigned as a center-left candidate, but has moved rather decidedly to the center-right.

But you're not talking about the beliefs of Obama, but rather of willfully ignorant idiots who'll swallow whole any misinformation, disinformation and outright lies that come their way on Fox, Savage, Rush, etc., and that's a whole nother kettle of fish.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 10 months ago

Why does it matter what religion he subscribes to? We still have Freedom of Religion in this country don't we?? He's not forcing his beliefs on anyone is he? That's more than I can say for some of the so-called Christians on here.When will America stop following the diversions our "lamestream"(thanks Nancy-Tom) media keep throwing at us because they don't have the testicular fortitude to cover real stories.Confuse and conquer seem to be the order of the day along with fear-mongering.

kernal 7 years, 10 months ago

Your post indicates you believe this hype about Obama being a Muslim. Was that your intent?

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 10 months ago

I don't know how you got that from my post.I was an "Obama follower" before he ran for Illinois Senate.I'm just saying that it should NOT matter what religion he is.As long as the party of "NO" can keep us afraid of all things Islam, they will do just that.Fear seems to be their only tactic.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 10 months ago

who in the world "follows" obama while he's a community organize? Are you related to him?

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 10 months ago

No, he was a Constitutional Law Professor. His days as a community organizer were during college. He was a pretty "big deal" in Chicago before the rest of the world ever heard of him.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

" His full name, Barack Hussein Obama, sounds Muslim to many."

Does it now.

A tad repetitious to repeat this "story" on consecutive days, isn't it?

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 10 months ago

LJW loves to feed the "Right VS Left" squabble. I think they do it on slow news days to get a rise out of people...

I've heard that about sports radio. If it's a slow day, ask everyone if Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame and watch the switchboards light up like Christmas trees.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm more concerned by his beliefs in Marxism.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 10 months ago

We do the hokie pokie & we turn ourselves around; that's what it's all about! America!

kernal 7 years, 10 months ago

Boy of boy, ya shoulda seen the comment I almost posted. LOL! The jist of it is I'm sick and tired of some media's half baked news casts, the fear mongers and the ignorance that seems to be running rampant through this country just because a person with a black heritage was elected president. So he's partly black. Well, whoop de do!

The GOP has lost its mind. They must sit at home in the night imagining liberal conspiracies and stewing about aliens getting ready to land on earth. Talk about liberals being lefties, the GOP is way out in left field and can't find its way back to the pitching mound.

jonas_opines 7 years, 10 months ago

"The GOP has lost its mind. They must sit at home in the night imagining liberal conspiracies and stewing about aliens getting ready to land on earth."

Hey, that story's been out there to read since before the election.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 10 months ago

I.m more worried about "born again" Christians than I am Muslims.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 10 months ago

I know Popin Fresh isn't muslim so no need to worry.

chalice2 7 years, 10 months ago

He might be gay, though. Poppin' Fresh, that is.

Practicality 7 years, 10 months ago

Even if Obama was a muslim (and I don't think he is) who cares.

I am more concerned with the percentage of people who think Obama is doing a good job as president. (And I don't think he is)

1029 7 years, 10 months ago

Clearly that picture proves that he is a muslim. I don't even have to read the article. People just have a hard time admitting that there liberal hero is really a muslim, and so they let facts get in the way of common sense.

itwasthedukes 7 years, 10 months ago

The important story here is the way the media has sold a bill of goods that may not be true and they continue to do it. Declaring him a Christian does not make it so, show me the facts that help to prove this. Why do they block out the issuance date on the passport when that could have dispelled so many rumors? Legitimate questions have turned to crazy rhetoric because the media has an agenda they are dictating to us. Not a conspiracy when it is so blatant, just research for yourself many of the AP stories and study how they word them, knowing the average person just grabs a headline here or there. For instance adding the phrase "highly respected" to the Pugh research polling story when most of the time they are silent on the prestige of the pollster.

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 10 months ago

I sure don't remember hearing any apologies from dubyah's lips.

Jim Phillips 7 years, 10 months ago

OK, I'll tackle it. Muslims, in general, are not terrorists just as Timothy McVey was atypical of the right wing. It is the extremists of either side that are the problem. Personally, I could not care less if Bush, you, or Obama is Muslim, Christian, or a true believer in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That is none of my , nor anyone else's business. What I do find amusing is all of the bloggers who are quick to defend the building of the mosque near Ground Zero under the guise of religious freedom yet get so offended when the Annointed One is "accused" of being Muslim. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't; so what? I have more concerns about his totalitarian political ideals than his Constitutionally protected religious beliefs.

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 10 months ago

I beleive the entity we've come to call TomShewmon is actually just an RSS feed from Fox News in disguise.

puddleglum 7 years, 10 months ago

remember when foxnews analyst tom-tom clearly stated that there is no way Obama would win the election, that his numbers were fake, and that Mccain-Palin was the winner to-be?

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes, I remember. You must remember that Shewmon has no shame or scruples, and certainly no self-reflective memory. He has had a nasty case of the wrongs so many times that he has been vaccinated against it.

He is in it for the minute.

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes, and I remember him saying America wasn't ready to vote for a black man as president.

Janet Lowther 7 years, 10 months ago

You know, in high school debates, a kid who feels that he is loosing on the facts, will sometimes counter with fiction, hoping that the other side doesn't have appropriate facts to contradict his position in the rebuttal.

It seems that is where the far right is these days: If the facts don't help, make something up. Seems like the G. W. Bush administration practiced this one extensively. Why else did we invade Iraq?

Someone said, "Say something loud enough, long enough, and people will believe it, no matter how silly."

The right wing does not have a monopoly on this technique. Remember when the homeless were a regular item in the news? The constantly repeated statistic on homelessness was a made-up number, and the issue dropped off the radar once a reporter traced it down through numerous layers of people who quoted it from others, back to its original source, an advocate for the homeless, who admitted making it up.

The POWER of the "Obama is a Muslim" lie, seems to be embedded in the attitude many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians evince: If you aren't Christian, you aren't quite human.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 10 months ago

Exactly, jrlii.

Although Obama is demonstrably a christian, inasmuch as stating he is one and going to a christian church and praying makes one a christian.

Shane Garrett 7 years, 10 months ago

The best way to inform someone and get them to change their opinion is to call that person or persons ignorant idiots! I love the logic of the "smart" people in Lawrence.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

“Obama’s in trouble. Whether it’s the economy or the oil spill or the Ground Zero Caring Sharing Togetherness Mosque or whatever else that’s gone wrong for him, his approval ratings are drooping like a 49-year-old man’s pecs. More and more Americans are wondering why they voted for this guy. More and more Americans are getting fed up with the way things are going. More and more Americans are flipping their calendars to November 2010 and 2012 and marking the dates. You’ll never guess whose fault that is!..” Read more:

Jimo 7 years, 10 months ago

Stacy McCain earlier this week:

And there is a notable tendency among conservative bloggers to limit themselves to three basic categories of topics: 1. Liberals are evil. 2. The media is biased. 3. Whatever is on the Drudge Report.

Jimo 7 years, 10 months ago's not just the left wingers who have noted the intellectual stagnation of conservatism in the last decade or so. The 'lack of new ideas' is a huge topic of concern on the right among those focused on more than short-term, Rovian tactical spin.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 10 months ago

This poll is interesting from a sociological perspective; how the opinions and beliefs of an uneducated and/or apathetic populace can be manipulated by cynical and dishonest media.

Beyond that, it is all rubbish.

Thinking_Out_Loud 7 years, 10 months ago

Do you consider that a testable hypothesis, YWN?

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 10 months ago

Yep, and it has been tested. It is simply a fact that Obama is not a muslim. Therefore, Fox "news" and others, by merely stating once and again that Obama is a muslim, have changed people's ideas about the issue.

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

Find out the level of education of the people polled, then find out how many of them watch FoxNews, America's most watched "news" station. Then compare the two and see how closely lower education and watches Fox means a positive false reading on the Obama is a Muslim question.

Yes, it is testable, and quite easy at that.

Fill 7 years, 10 months ago

Uneducated and/or apathetic populace???

whats_going_on 7 years, 10 months ago

I found out today that someone I respected and looked up to watches Fox. I about lost it. While I respect other ideas and "political" ideologies, I simply cannot respect anyone who watches that sh*t. (OR MSNBC, for that matter...same crap, different side)

kernal 7 years, 10 months ago

There have been a lot of comments and concerns that Obama's not doing a good job. The thing is, could anyone have done a good job with the way things were when the new President took office? This is a really big a mess for any able politician to inherit. I don't know that McCain could have done better. I'm sure he would have done some things differently, but I'm sure there would have been just as much controversy and probably about the same end results. It's a no win situation.

One of my big concerns is are there enough members in this Congress who have the intelligence needed to get us out of this quagmire the previous administration left us? The smell of pork must be wafting all over DC everytime a bill comes up for a vote so that it's a wonder any bill gets passed with it's original content and purpose.

So much for anyone listening to John McCain and Obama's requests for a bi-partisan Congress when the new administration took over.

Fill 7 years, 10 months ago

I can't believe a dang thing politicians say anymore ~ But i can believe some of what i see; and (besides what he himself has said in his books) Actions DO speak louder than words...

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

Vertigo, I saw the secret, behind the scene footage. That isn't pork! It was only made to look like pork. It is actually "sork" -- soy pork! It was all part of his evil plot to fool liberals into thinking he isn't a Muslim, or the Anti-Christ (I'm pretty sure he can be both at the same time).

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

But, but ... Palin!

Nice to know Republican talking heads never said anything about Hillary Clinton's hair styles.

Oh wait... they did.

Tom, you are still a caricature.

Mike Ford 7 years, 10 months ago

snap pop no crackle, I've talked smack at uneducated columnists on the daily caller concerning the federal recognition of the Shinnecock tribe on Long Island, NY. The Daily Caller is as full of bs as the rest of the fear wing websites you people consider fact. Do you honestly think that having a platform of repealing the 14th amendment, health care, and whatever crazy stuff you people concoct can be marketed to people outside of your crazy circle? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! do you people take credit for voting for the dumblicans that caused these problems and then prevent people from trying legislatively to fix them? Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why should you be let back into power? you shouldn't.. and that's why I'm doing poll work on Saturday.. genius.

slowplay 7 years, 10 months ago

None of this makes any difference. Republicans will vote Republican and Democrats will vote Democrat. Nobody is changing parties. If you voted for Obama first time around you'll vote for him again. It's the independents who will sway the vote and I honestly don't see the Republicans offering up anything different than what preceded Obama and that's not going to sway anyone to vote Republican. All incumbents are in trouble during the mid terms because nothing has changed in Congress. Partisan politics still rules. Democrats had a golden opportunity but blew it. Republicans likewise, as they focused on negativity, smear campaigns, the racist Tea Party and hyperbole instead of putting forth sound ideas that we could embrace. One thing is certain, people are fed up with the far left and far right. Moderates will control the next term of Congress regardless of party affiliation.

Godot 7 years, 10 months ago

Polls say approximately 20 percent of Americans strongly approve of Obama's performance as president, and 20 percent think he is a Muslim. I think both sets of 20 percents are crazy - then, again, maybe they are one and the same.

blindrabbit 7 years, 10 months ago

Birthers, Islam Haters, dittoheads, Tea-partyers, bigots, anti this and thaters; when are people going to start using their brains instead of fomenting hate. The anti-intellectualness that seems so fashionable now in our current society is a product of all of the hate vomit spewed by the politically motivated media. Most of these talk show clowns are former adicts of one sort or another that have discovered the "manna" dollars of entertainment to a unthinking audience.

slowplay 7 years, 10 months ago

Your points are very valid, but our society is used to instant gratification. Obama, or even McCain if elected, had a very daunting task when he took over. Most reasonable people know that little could be expected in the first 3 to 4 years. Obama has another year to show that his policies are working. He's laid a foundation, but but the progress is too slow for most Americans. Jobs are the most important goal. Everybody feels better about themselves and the Country. Foreign Policy, oil spills, Muslim debates, bailouts, etc. etc are only argue points for party extremists. They mean very little in the long run. If the Obama administration does not make any gains in the job indexes there will be a Republican in office next election.

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps. It really will depend on who the Republicans choose. Will Americans really believe that Newt Gingrich has a plan? His previous plan for the nation didn't work, so why would another work? Mitt Romney? That guy is slicker than John Edwards, and that isn't a compliment. Palin? Not in this lifetime.

If the Republicans offered up a great candidate with an exceptional plan on how to continue to work ourselves out of this deep recession, then terrific! Good for the USA! Problem is, we haven't see that person yet. It is easy to say, "we are unhappy with the Democrats, so they must go," but until the actual Republicans running are identified, then any speculation of what will happen in future elections is just that, speculation. People might not like Obama, but that doesn't mean they will like (fill in the blank) more.

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