For Barack Obama, it is an ember that he has doused time and again, only to see it flicker anew: links to Islam fanned by false rumors, innuendo and association.
Obama and his campaign reacted strongly this week when a photo of him in Kenyan tribal garb began spreading on the Internet. And the praise he received Sunday from Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan prompted pointed questions – during Tuesday night’s presidential debate and also in a private meeting over the weekend with Jewish leaders in Cleveland.
During the debate, Obama repeated his denunciation of Farrakhan’s views, which have included numerous anti-Semitic comments. And, after being pressed, he rejected Farrakhan’s support.
The Democratic candidate says repeatedly that he’s a Christian who took the oath of office on a family Bible. Yet on the Internet and on talk radio – and in a campaign introduction for John McCain this week – he is often depicted, falsely, as a Muslim with shadowy ties and his middle name, Hussein, is emphasized as a reminder of Iraq’s former leader.
“If anyone is still puzzled about the facts, in fact I have never been a Muslim,” he told the Jewish leaders in Cleveland, according to a transcript of the private session.
The photo of Obama wearing Kenyan tribal raiments – taken by an Associated Press photographer during his visit in 2006 to the country where his father was born – resurfaced on the Internet amid unsubstantiated claims that it was being circulated by members of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign. Clinton and her aides said they had nothing to do with it. The Obama campaign accused them of “shameful, offensive fear-mongering.”