WSJ: Republicans Fuel Rumor That Obama Is Muslim

WSJ

Republicans Fuel Rumor That Obama Is Muslim

One of the most striking parts of Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama was his accusation that Republicans have helped spread the rumor that Sen. Obama is Muslim, and turned the word into a smear. “I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he’s Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists,” he said.

Some Republicans took umbrage at the comment, saying John McCain and Republicans haven’t directly made such an accusation. Jonah Goldberg, a writer for The National Review, said it was a “low and dishonest blow,” and asked: “Is there really much evidence that the GOP or the McCain campaign have had anything to do with the stories that Obama is a Muslim?”

It’s an important question, worth a detailed look.

First, Gen. Powell noted that Sen. McCain himself has never intimated that Sen. Obama is Muslim. And he’s right about that. Neither McCain nor his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have suggested such a thing, or even referred to their opponent by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama. At one point, the campaign fired a volunteer who had told voters that Sen. Obama is Muslim, and a recent video showedrank-and-file McCain supporters chastising an anti-Muslim McCainian.

Stoking the Rumor

Hillary Clinton arguably stoked the rumor more directly than McCain when she said during the primary that Sen. Obama wasn’t Muslim “as far as I know.”

What about the Republican Party itself? There’s no evidence that the national Republican Party has driven, coordinated or even overtly encouraged the Obama-is-a-Muslim line.

Yet the idea has been widely embraced, and not just by a few conservative extremists. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that a staggering 16% of McCain supporters believe Sen. Obama is Muslim – and only 47% of Republicans say he’s Christian (the balance is unsure).

There are some instances of Republican Party officials stoking the idea. The Tennessee Republican Partyissued a press release about “Barack Hussein Obama” that included a picture of Sen. Obama in “Muslim garb.” The Clark County, Washington, Republican Party declared on its Web site that “Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. It is reported that Obama swore his oath of office using the Koran….This is chilling information about a candidate for the highest office in the Country especially given the radical Muslim claims that they will destroy American from the inside.”

The Web site of the National Black Republican Association featured an article analyzing “Obama’s Muslim Connections,” which declared, “It’s important to scrutinize Obama’s Muslim background to determine if his Islamic past influences his decisions and actions toward America, including his decision to select an anti-American pastor as his spiritual adviser.”

Marcia Stirman, chairman of Otero County Republican Women in New Mexico, said of Obama in a letter to the local newspaper: “He’s a Muslim socialist.”

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