Remember that humongous hullabaloo not so long ago when candidate Barack Obama’s detractors were super-gluing him to his retired United Church of Christ pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in the hope of gumming up the Illinois senator’s campaign for the White House?
There was much talk then about Obama’s longtime attendance at a church with a pastor who gave fiery, controversial sermons. Needless to say, the United Church of Christ is Christian – a major Christian denomination, in fact.
Well, memory of that episode has suddenly evaporated from the minds of many of Obama’s present detractors. What is he? Christian? Muslim? Hard to tell, they now say.
The ranks of the amnesiac include the Rev. Franklin Graham, who told CNN in effect that all he had to go on was Obama’s word that he was a Christian. Yes, he was quick to add, he had no choice but to believe Obama. The faithful caught the wink: You may exercise the choice not to believe.
Graham gave further comfort to these swallowers of tall tales, claiming Obama was born a Muslim – which would have been news to his agnostic mother and atheistic father. Yes, the senior Barack Obama grew up Muslim, but came to believe that religion was mere superstition, according to his son’s autobiography. What’s more, the elder Obama played little role in raising his son, having walked out of his life when he was 2.
Graham’s mealy mouthed words go a long way to explaining why outlandish myths persist about this president, as underscored by a recent poll showing a surprising growth in the share of Americans who buy the lie that Obama is Muslim – from one of every nine in March of last year to one of every five now, according to the Pew Research Center. Uncertainty grew, too. The share of Americans who say they don’t know to which religion Obama belongs shot up from 34% to 43%.
The growth testifies to the success of a campaign of disinformation being waged against Obama -- in the blogosphere, over talk radio and on Fox News. And instead of acting responsibly by dispelling the myths forthright, many leaders on the right, like Graham, are abetting the campaign.
There are bigger whoppers than the claim Obama is a Muslim. A huge, out-and-out lie with stubborn currency is the claim that Obama was not born in America and is not an American citizen – a fabrication Republican leaders have been loath to dispel.
Though the Rev. Graham doesn’t think so – he believes Islam is evil – describing Obama as Muslim would be OK if in fact he was. His enemies are trying to attach that false label to him, however, so that the prejudice that some Americans feel toward Muslims would redound on Obama.
Yes, the current anti-Obama narrative – that the president may be Muslim – contradicts an earlier one – that Obama was a longtime disciple of a mad Christian minister. But nobody seems to notice, much less care.