In September 2008, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos for ABC’s This Week news program. When the subject of the interview turned to Senator Obama’s assertion that Republicans were attempting to scare voters by suggesting he is not Christian, the following exchange occurred:
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned your Christian faith. Yesterday, you took after the Republicans for suggesting you have Muslim connections. Just a few minutes ago, Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign manager, said they’ve never done that. This is a false and cynical attempt to play victim.
SEN. OBAMA: You know what, these guys love to throw a rock and hide their hands.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But the McCain campaign has never suggested you have Muslim connections.
SEN. OBAMA: No. No. No. But I don’t think that when you look at what is being promulgated on Fox News, let’s say, and Republican commentators who are closely allied to these
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But John McCain said that’s wrong.
SEN. OBAMA: Listen, you and I both know that the minute that Governor Palin was forced to talk about her daughter, I immediately said that’s off limits.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And John McCain said the same thing about questioning your faith.
SEN. OBAMA: And what was the first thing the McCain campaign went out and did? They said, look, these liberal blogs that support Obama are out there attacking Governor Palin. Let’s not play games. What I was
suggesting — you’reabsolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith …
This interview was widely circulated online (typically in excerpted form) as purported evidence of Obama’s supposedly “admitting” he was a Muslim:
Attached is a video of Barack Obama in an interview where he apparently slips that he is of Muslim faith then corrects himself and says Christian. I was wondering if this interview is true or has it been doctored to appear this way?
Obama’s remark that “you’re absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith …” was a straightforward statement: He was not “proclaiming” his “Muslim faith”; rather, he was acknowledging that Republican nominee John McCain had not specifically promulgated the false rumor that he (Obama) was a Muslim.
Unfortunately, at that point of the interview, George Stephanopoulos — apparently not understanding the context of Obama’s response — mistakenly attempted to correct him by interjecting the words “Your Christian faith.” This
SEN. OBAMA: What I was
suggesting — you’reabsolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith, and you’re absolutely right that that has not come …
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS (interrupting): Your Christian faith.
SEN. OBAMA: My Christian faith — well, what I’m saying
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS (interrupting): Connections, right.
… thathe hasn’t suggested that I’m a Muslim, and I think that his campaign upper echelons haven’t either. What I think is fair to say is that coming out of the Republican camp, there have been efforts to suggest that perhaps I’m not what who I say I am when it comes to my faith, something which I find deeply offensive, and that has been going on for a pretty long time.
A very brief, out-of-context segment was then clipped from that exchange and sent winging around the Internet as proof that Senator Obama had “admitted his Muslim faith,” something even the right-leaning Washington Times acknowledged was false:
But illustrating the difficulty of preventing false rumors about his faith from spreading,
anti-Obamagroups within one hour of the interview had sliced it out of context and were sending it around via email. They also were blogging about it.
Mr. Obama, who is a Christian and often proudly speaks about how his faith has influenced his public service, said he finds it “deeply offensive” that there are efforts “coming out of the Republican camp to suggest that perhaps I’m not who I say I am when it comes to my faith.”