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Barack Obama's signature

Various criticisms were made during the campaign concerning Obama's religious background and heritage, both by political opponents and by some members of the media.[215]

In 2004, conservative columnist Andy Martin issued a press release alleging that Obama had "sought to misrepresent his heritage,"[216] indirectly triggering one of the first viral emails spreading false rumors about Obama's background.[217]

The issue lay fallow for almost three years, but picked up again in late 2006, as the announcement of Obama's presidential candidacy approached. In October, a conservative blog, Infidel Bloggers Alliance, reposted Martin's press release in response to a question about Obama's heritage.[218] Then, on December 26, conservative activist Ted Sampley, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, posted a column suggesting Obama was a secret Muslim, heavily quoting Martin's original press release.[219] Shortly afterward, many chain e-mails began circulating claiming that Obama was a hypothetical "Manchurian Candidate."[220] According to Hayes, one of these emails was forwarded to Snopes within hours of Sampley's story. Hayes believes that the email was likely a slightly altered version of the Sampley article, which was in turn heavily based on Martin's 2004 press release. Martin told Hayes that he got numerous calls once the emails began circulating. When the callers asked him if he wrote the release, Martin replied, "They are all my children."[215]

In January 2007, two of the Obama campaign's first hires were opposition researchers, immediately assigned to debunk these e-mails.[221]

On January 17, 2007, the day after Obama announced his candidacy, the Internet magazine Insight published an article claiming that Clinton campaign staff had told them that Obama had attended a Muslim seminary as a child in Indonesia and that they were planning to use that information against him during the upcoming primary election campaign.[222] The Clinton and Obama campaigns quickly denounced the allegations.[223] Investigations by CNN, ABC and others showed that Obama had not, as Insight had written, attended an Islamic seminary. Instead, for his first three years abroad Obama attended St. Francis Assisi Catholic School, and in his last year he transferred to State Elementary School Menteng Besuki, an Indonesian public school for children of all faiths.[224] A series of Chicago Tribune reports found that "[w]hen Obama attended 4th grade in 1971, Muslim children spent two hours a week studying Islam, and Christian children spent those two hours learning about the Christian religion."[225] The series also stated: "In fact, Obama's religious upbringing in Indonesia depended more on the conventions of the schools he attended than on any decision by him, his mother or his stepfather. When he was at a Catholic school for three years, he prayed as a Catholic. When he was at a public school for a year, he learned about Islam."[226] In May 2008 Insight ceased publication.[227]

In February 2008, a photo of Obama dressed in a turban and other local clothing while on a 2006 visit to an ethnic Somali community in Kenya appeared on the Drudge Report, which attributed it to a Clinton staffer upset at Obama getting more favorable coverage in the media than Clinton. The photo was interpreted as suggesting Muslim garb, and the Obama campaign accused the Clinton campaign of “shameful, offensive fear-mongering”. A spokesman for Clinton replied that the release of the photo had not been sanctioned by the campaign—but added that "We have over 700 people on this campaign, and I’m not in a position to know what each one of them may or may not have done."[228]

E-mails and flyers repeating allegations about Obama and other candidates were distributed to voters in Iowa and South Carolina just before they went to vote for presidential candidates. In Iowa, Obama told his supporters: “You have e-mails saying that I’m a Muslim plant that’s trying to take over America. If you get this e-mail from someone you know, set the record straight.”[229] Sen. Clinton's campaign fired at least two campaign volunteers for forwarding related e-mails about Obama.[230]

Obama's campaign organization responded with a letter from Christian leaders vouching for his Christian faith, as well as with appeals to supporters to help correct any misunderstanding.[231] From November 2007 to January 2008, as part of a drive to promote awareness of his Christian faith, Obama gave interviews to Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, to Christianity Today and to the religious website Beliefnet.com.[232] Nevertheless, the false belief that Obama is a Muslim has persisted in some key demographics and is among the most frequently cited reasons for opposition to Obama in public polling.[233][234] In polls taken in March and April 2008, between 10 and 15 percent of respondents believed Obama was Muslim.[235]

While it campaigned in Kentucky in May 2008, the Obama campaign mailed out a flyer featuring Obama's Christianity.[236]

Pledge of Allegiance

Another accusation is that Obama refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance. This is based on a Time magazine picture of Obama listening to the U.S. National Anthem with his hands at his sides while the others on stage have their right hands over their hearts. He does, in fact, say the Pledge and sometimes led the Senate in doing so.[237]

Obama's name

Some conservative opponents of Obama featured his middle name "Hussein" and the similarity of his last name with "Osama" to suggest that he has Muslim heritage or possible associations with terrorists, or to question his loyalty to the United States[238] (both "Barack" and "Hussein" are names of Semitic origin that mean, respectively, to bless/blessing and good/handsome).[239] In February 2008, the Tennessee Republican Party circulated a memo titled "Anti-Semites for Obama" that featured his middle name and showed a picture of him in African clothes while on a trip to Africa.[240] A website, ExposeObama.com, sent out emails in early 2008 that included messages such as "President Barack Hussein Obama ... the scariest four words in the English language!"[241&

Various criticisms were made during the campaign concerning Obama's religious background and heritage, both by political opponents and by some members of the media.[215]

In 2004, conservative columnist Andy Martin issued a press release alleging that Obama had "sought to misrepresent his heritage,"[216] indirectly triggering one of the first viral emails spreading false rumors about Obama's background.[217]

The issue lay fallow for almost three years, but picked up again in late 2006, as the announcement of Obama's presidential candidacy approached. In October, a conservative blog, Infidel Bloggers Alliance, reposted Martin's press release in response to a question about Obama's heritage.[218] Then, on December 26, conservative activist Ted Sampley, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, posted a column suggesting Obama was a secret Muslim, heavily quoting Martin's original press release.[219] Shortly

In 2004, conservative columnist Andy Martin issued a press release alleging that Obama had "sought to misrepresent his heritage,"[216] indirectly triggering one of the first viral emails spreading false rumors about Obama's background.[217]

The issue lay fallow for almost three years, but picked up again in late 2006, as the announcement of Obama's presidential candidacy approached. In October, a conservative blog, Infidel Bloggers Alliance, reposted Martin's press release in response to a question about Obama's heritage.[218] Then, on December 26, conservative activist Ted Sampley, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, posted a column suggesting Obama was a secret Muslim, heavily quoting Martin's original press release.[219] Shortly afterward, many chain e-mails began circulating claiming that Obama was a hypothetical "Manchurian Candidate."[220] According to Hayes, one of these emails was forwarded to Snopes within hours of Sampley's story. Hayes believes that the email was likely a slightly altered version of the Sampley article, which was in turn heavily based on Martin's 2004 press release. Martin told Hayes that he got numerous calls once the emails began circulating. When the callers asked him if he wrote the release, Martin replied, "They are all my children."[215]

In January 2007, two of the Obama campaign's first hires were opposition researchers, immediately assigned to debunk these e-mails.[221]

On January 17, 2007, the day after Obama announced his candidacy, the Internet magazine Insight published an article claiming that Clinton campaign staff had told them that Obama had attended a Muslim seminary as a child in Indonesia and that they were planning to use that information against him during the upcoming primary election campaign.[222] The Clinton and Obama campaigns quickly denounced the allegations.[223] Investigations by CNN, ABC and others showed that Obama had not, as Insight had written, attended an Islamic seminary. Instead, for his first three years abroad Obama attended St. Francis Assisi Catholic School, and in his last year he transferred to State Elementary School Menteng Besuki, an Indonesian public school for children of all faiths.[224] A series of Chicago Tribune reports found that "[w]hen Obama attended 4th grade in 1971, Muslim children spent two hours a week studying Islam, and Christian children spent those two hours learning about the Christian religion."[225] The series also stated: "In fact, Obama's religious upbringing in Indonesia depended more on the conventions of the schools he attended than on any decision by him, his mother or his stepfather. When he was at a Catholic school for three years, he prayed as a Catholic. When he was at a public school for a year, he learned about Islam."[226] In May 2008 Insight ceased publication.[227]

In February 2008, a photo of Obama dressed in a turban and other local clothing while on a 2006 visit to an ethnic Somali community in Kenya appeared on the Drudge Report, which attributed it to a Clinton staffer upset at Obama getting more favorable coverage in the media than Clinton. The photo was interpreted as suggesting Muslim garb, and the Obama campaign accused the Clinton campaign of “shameful, offensive fear-mongering”. A spokesman for Clinton replied that the release of the photo had not been sanctioned by the campaign—but added that "We have over 700 people on this campaign, and I’m not in a position to know what each one of them may or may not have done."[228]

E-mails and flyers repeating allegations about Obama and other candidates were distributed to voters in Iowa and South Carolina just before they went to vote for presidential candidates. In Iowa, Obama told his supporters: “You have e-mails saying that I’m a Muslim plant that’s trying to take over America. If you get this e-mail from someone you know, set the record straight.”[229] Sen. Clinton's campaign fired at least two campaign volunteers for forwarding related e-mails about Obama.[230]

Obama's campaign organization responded with a letter from Christian leaders vouching for his Christian faith, as well as with appeals to supporters to help correct any misunderstanding.[231] From November 2007 to January 2008, as part of a drive to promote awareness of his Christian faith, Obama gave interviews to Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, to Christianity Today and to the religious website Beliefnet.com.[232] Nevertheless, the false belief that Obama is a Muslim has persisted in some key demographics and is among the most frequently cited reasons for opposition to Obama in public polling.[233][234] In polls taken in March and April 2008, between 10 and 15 percent of respondents believed Obama was Muslim.[235]